ginigisa ng kabayan sa sariling mantika (when your countryman fries you in your own juices or oil)


Cannibalsstock_Cannibals_34640741[back home we have a saying: ginigisa sa sariling mantika; literally, being fried in your own juices or oils, when your own resources are used to take advantage of you. Doubly worse when a supposed friend or ally, your own countryman or compatriot, does the dirty deed. Thanks for reading, stay safe everyone!]

NAIVELY PERHAPS, I’VE ALWAYS been faithful to the notion of the good nature of the Filipino overseas. Sociable, team-oriented, friendly, ready to help, all embodied in our beloved term bayanihan

…and above all honest and decent. Or at least, fair.

Even when I hear about how kabayan (countrymen) take advantage of fellow kabayan in our major population centers in New Zealand, I usually dismiss this as a unique, embarrassing one-off or outlier behavior of misguided Pinoys.

That was till recently when a new flatmate of ours recounted how, regularly and as part of everyday life, Filipinos and even those he trusted took advantage of him, overcharged him and never looked out for his welfare.

Dodong* was a late and unexpected addition to our household. The previous occupant, an architecture student going to Weltec suddenly changed her mind and decided to leave last week to study medicine back home in Colombia. So Mahal and I didn’t expect a new room aspirant, much less a Filipino, to ask around for it (we put up an ad just in case, but got a reply within 24 hours) so soon. Seemed that he answered an advertiser (also Filipino) who declined because they needed a female flattie.

He asked our rate (market rate), declared he would take the room sight unseen, and would move in the same day. Wow, my maybahay (wife) told herself mentally, no one does that, told Dodong there was a bond and advance, which the kabayan accepted without batting an eyelash. He moved in with his tools and bed linen later that day.

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First chance I got, I asked Dodong, who I found out had been working on short-term projects as a carpenter the last five years in Dunedin, Christchurch and now Wellington. I believe in the wisdom of settling board and lodging as soon as possible, but why didn’t he shop around?

This was what he told me: with another carpenter he paid $160 a week each to share a room, definitely above market rates (nearly double) but because the agent herself procured the room, he had little choice but to comply.

Worse, barely a month after he moved in, the agent decided that there was enough room for two more Pinoys and the two-to-a-room became four-to-a-room, without even notice or a sori ha? from the agent. And the best (worst) part? The $160 rent obligation didn’t change, he had to continue paying the same.

The most incredible part of this OFW horror story wasn’t any of the details above but the fact that Dodong wouldn’t have left if not for two things:  first, that being on night shift, Dodong had to wait until one of the two new occupants woke up and gave him a decent space to snuggle in (!), and second, even on the days he slept nights, at least one of his three roomies had a severe snoring problem, and that, to him was the final straw. Wow.

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I wish I could tell you that this was an outrage to Dodong, but to him it was no worse than his work experience in Christchurch: there were 12 of them in the house, and four to a room was quite common during his Christchurch gig. Everything was in-your-face, no privacy at all, and although there was never a lonely moment, he didn’t miss it.

Lastly, something odd struck me with Dodong’s length of stay in New Zealand. Five years! No plans to make it permanent? As in permanent residence? After all, he was contributing to the engine of growth of Aotearoa, had a squeaky clean record, paid his taxes, and of course, always went to work as a skilled worker.

Dili man, Dodong told me. He never considered any status other than guest worker / work visa, as no one ever told him he might be eligible, and that his day consisted only of getting to work , doing the work, and getting home to work. He never thought he might be welcome in New Zealand.

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The common denominator in all these, kabayan? You don’t need to be a genius to guess it, and I’m guessing you have: He has, and has always had, a Filipino agent, and moreover a Filipino organizing his stay whenever he moves from project to project. The faces and places may change, but the system remains the same.

Squeeze the last drop out of your kabayan, and if he or she never complains, so much the better.

God bless you Dodong, you suffer in silence, but the laws of karma and the universe will never change.

Thank you for reading, mabuhay!

*not his real name.

Love (for kabayan) in the time of coronavirus


call center agents

NO MATTER how many times I show off my Pinoy accent to the call center person (clipped vowels, unexaggerated consonants and unaspirated p’s and t’s), they won’t volunteer to ask, or even assume, that I’m a Filipino. This call was no exception.

CALL CENTER PERSON (Itago natin sa pangalang “Jennifer”) : Ah, before I can rebook your ticket Mr Noel, you have to accept the price addition and change fee and also the change name and I also have to confirm your personal details and flight details to make sure the new flight time is available.

ME : Yes, I’m aware of that Jennifer. I also want to make sure I can transfer the ticket to my wife’s name with the correct spelling and details without too much hassle, and I also hope it’s not too expensive.

JENNIFER : I’m sure I can help you with that Mr Noel, may I have the full name of your wife as appears on her passport please?

I give her Mahal’s details and surely, coupled with my own Pinoy sounding name, assume she will start talking in Tagalog, to make things easier for both of us.

JENNIFER : Thank you very much Mr Noel, now let me repeat your requested rebooking details together with the details of your transferee, which is of course your wife. Is that OK?

Hmmm. Kahit na di naman sya hirap sa English nya, parang mas madadalian kaming dalawa kung pareho na lang kaming managalog.

ME : You know Jen, I have a funny feeling you’re from the Philippines and you’re probably aware I’m also from the Philippines too. It might be better for us to talk in Tagalog na lang.

JENNIFER : That’s OK sir, you can speak with me in your preferred language as long as I can understand you. However since I’ve already started speaking to you in English, if you don’t mind I’ll continue, but I’m glad to know we can both speak and understand Tagalog. Now, here are the details . . . 

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I can feel the relief and warmth in her voice now. I want to ask her why she doesn’t just switch to our native language but thought better of it, thinking both of the rules in her workplace against speaking in Tagalog and the fact that most likely, our call was being recorded. Instead I just spoke to her one-sided in Tagalog.

ME : Curious lang ako Jen, naapektuhan ba ang calls or business nyo sa coronavirus? Nabawasan ba ang travel and bookings mula nung pumutok mga cases ng virus sa China?

JENNIFER : Not that I can tell sir, as far as we can see, business is business as usual, we handle the same volume of calls although I can see quite a few cancellations in particular destinations.

I can’t ask which, as I know she will decline to answer. I decide to not pursue that line of questioning.

ME : Anong gagawin nyo kung magsara mga principal nyo at mga business na pinaglilingkuran nyo? ( I know that as call centers, they are “outsourced” by the actual businesses)

JENNIFER : Honestly sir, nothing changes. We just do lateral training and move fluidly between one industry to another. We’ve been doing this for years and my team and I have worked for dozens of accounts in different industries. The only thing we can’t do is move from one account to its competitor. As long as there’s work, we just keep working.

Impressed lalo ako di lang sa English nya kundi sa bilis nyang sumagot. She’s not only smart, she’s quick on her feet in responding to different questions. Parang beauty pageant contestant.

ME : Great to know Jen, pero paano naman sa Pilipinas? May nagbago na bang malaki sa mga nakikita mo?

JENNIFER : As far as I know sir nakikita ko sa mga airport may mga check sila at mas strict sila sa mga overseas travellers, nakamask na rin mga checkers sa mga mall at crowded areas. But other than that I don’t see much changes anywhere else. Won’t you be seeing these things for yourself Mr Noel?

Before answering I make a mental note to NOT notice that Jen made a “slip of the tongue” and actually spoke in Taglish for a few sentences. Just hope it doesn’t get her in trouble.

ME : I actually went home three times the last year Jen, for family reasons. For that reason alone I’ll have a hard time returning to the Philippines, payat na’ng budget. But even if I had the money, because there’s so much uncertainty surrounding public health, I’ll think ten times before going home this year. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

JENNIFER : (quickly recovering from her lapse in Taglish) That’s too bad sir. Your family will miss you here. Meanwhile your kabayan will keep the struggle alive sir, don’t you worry.

She didn’t know it but that short reply of hers brought a lump to my throat, I suddenly became emotional. I thought of her daily struggles going to work, keeping body and soul together, working overtime just to make ends meet, and helping her entire family while being a productive member of 21st century Philippines. Love for country, love for kabayan.

ME : God bless you Jen, and God bless your family. Sige, maraming salamat sa tulong mo. Kung dadalaw ka rito sa New Zealand, maraming magbibigay sa yo ng mainit na pagsalubong. You know my details, heh heh heh!

JENNIFER : Maraming salamat sir.

Was that thank you a lapse or intentional? Mabuhay ka Jen!

 

fighting the urge to say “buti nga sa yo”(serves you right) to fellow migrants from China


[thank you for Al Jazeera for the video, I’m not the owner, and thanks to Filipino Migrant News for naming http://www.ylbnoel.wordpress.com as one of the Social Media Influencers in the Pinoy community in New Zealand! Grateful and humbled po, please continue to visit our site kabayan and friends ! ]

IF YOU. Precious Reader, thought that there were (are) a lot of Filipino migrants in New Zealand (at least 35,000), there are even more Chinese migrants (at least 171,000 as of a 2013 census), outnumbering us at least four to one.

Our migrant counterparts, fellow immigrants from China, are like Filipinos. They’re sociable, work hard, pursue the New Zealand dream of health, contentment and safety from war and violence, and just try to get along with everybody.

Actually, that’s a white lie. I’ve stretched the truth a bit.

Using a very subjective standard (subjective because I can only compare everything else to myself), Chinese are not that sociable  (I’m being honest now), definitely not at all the way Filipinos are. There are two main reasons for this:

First, they don’t make too much effort to learn or improve their English. Whatever the reasons are, they just don’t. (No value judgment in this) And second, related to the first reason: because they don’t familiarize themselves with the local language, they tend very strongly to keep among themselves. It’s a fact that despite their numbers, the Chinese are quite a closely-knit community, in New Zealand or wherever else.

Whether it’s intentional or just a character of the Chinese, we can’t fault them for it. In recent times, because of the Chinese incursion into our waters, the way Chinese workers show disrespect for our surroundings in the Philippines, their (admittedly) poor hygiene practices, and the general way we are given less than our due respect between sovereign states, we have apparently even more reason to gloat and say buti nga sa yo (serves you right or you deserve it) when so many Chinese (more than 30,000 now as of last count, and definitely more coming) are suffering from the coronavirus originating from animals and now confirmed to be transmitted human to human.

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They won’t admit it, but the Chinese economy will be affected for months to come. Because the Chinese economy accounts for at least 15% of the world economy, probably more, with all its generation of products, services, consumption and ultimately wealth,  everywhere around the world, all economic activity is expected to experience a downturn, tourism especially, not the least in both the Philippines and New Zealand.

If ever there was a time to gloat, point to karma for all their bullying ways and shout to the whole world that what comes up must come down (or that the good times must end sometime) it would be NOW. It’s so easy to tell the Chinese, get the eff away from my country, I don’t want your money or business, and keep your virals and infected away from our country (just like zombies in a sci-fi movie or TV series), be like gone for the next couple years OK?

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But it’s not right. Just like it’s not right for China to be stepping all over us figuratively and literally the last few years in the South China Sea (only named such because they named it)? you may ask? Yes kabayan, it’s not right, but just because somebody is wrong doesn’t mean it’s alright to be wrong too.

I refer specifically to the way Chinese overseas (not Overseas Chinese, the term some Filipino Chinese use for themselves, but Chinese from Communist China) are being treated, in the Philippines and elsewhere. Being kept away from crowds. Being discouraged from entering restos and malls. Being talked about right to their faces and frankly, being asked to leave because they are, by association, an infected nation.

Nothing could be worse in this day and age, and Filipinos should know better. First place, hindi naman porke’t Tsino ay may virus na. (Being Chinese doesn’t mean you’re sick.) We all know that. Secondly, there are a group of reasons why we shouldn’t behave like racists and treat Chinese in New Zealand and the Philippines (much as it’s our human nature to do so) as second-class, sick and deserving of our insults.

It’s good business. Besides “Winter is coming,” do you remember the House sigul (motto) of House Stark in Game of Thrones? (I’m pretending everyone is a GoT fan.) Yes, it’s “The North Remembers.” Well, using our real-life example, China remembers. It will remember who treated it well and who didn’t. Because we’re already bending over backwards and being extra-nice to China (for all the wrong reasons) we might as well do it for the right reason. China is down, and you don’t hit somebody when he or she’s down. 101%, China will rise again, very shortly, and it will to reiterate, have an elephant’s memory. I’m not saying set up hospitals and take all their sick, just treat them decently, allow their citizens the same rights and privileges as any other visitors here (with the exception of letting in travelers from infected areas, iba na ‘yon), and it will be to our advantage. It’s good business to treat others decently.

It’s good manners. As a member of the family of nations, it’s our duty to extend a helping hand, to the extent reasonable, when someone needs help. China obviously is in dire straits now, and though its pride won’t let it do so, China needs all the help it can get. The Philippines may not be in a position to be altruistic and generous, but we do have human resources available if the need arises, in the form of medical expertise and skills. Subject of course to our own needs and the requirements of health and safety.

It’s good for the soul. When all else fails, we can use the golden rule. No, it’s not the Chinese version (“He who has the gold, makes the rule.”) but “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” Simply put, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. If we were in deep doo-doo, we would ask help from anybody and everybody, and China isn’t there yet, but getting there. Let’s not wait to be asked and just help anyway we can. It’s good for our soul. It’s good for karma. It’s good for neighborliness. Believe what you want, but it’s a good look. Not just a good look, but it’s good. Period.

And that’s why, we shouldn’t turn our backs now on China and its migrants and overseas workers. Not in New Zealand. And not in the Philippines.

 

 

bato bato sa langit… trusting our own kabayan, in cash and in kind


[ thanks and acknowledgment for the video to  ilovejamich, thanks for reading! ]

SA MGA BLOG post natin, hinikayat ko at pinilit ko na sa habang panahon, laging positive ang mga paksa at usapin dito. I’ve always tried to highlight the good side of migrant life, the positive attributes of the Pinoy migrant, how well we get along with fellow Pinoys and with others, our famous industriousness, sociableness, civic mindedness etc.

But like any other migrant community in New Zealand, there is always a shady, darker side.

People taking advantage of newcomers’ ignorance or lack of experience as migrants. Migrants stealing from fellow migrants. Enterprising members of the same community pretending to help newcomers, or even countrymen back home, only to be exposed later as using the kindness of others to line their pockets with ill-gotten cash or property.

The basic theme is this: where there are people to be taken advantage of, there will be people to take advantage. Where there is a thriving migrant community such as ours, kapwa Pinoy (fellow Filipinos) “off-the-boat” (recently arrived from the Philippine), less-informed or less sophisticated financially or professionally will always be easy targets for the unscrupulous or looking to make a quick and dodgy dollar. Cheating and thievery are universal across all cultures, and we Pinoys are no different. The temptation is simply too much.

It doesn’t even have to be illegal or criminal to qualify as migrants taking advantage of fellow migrants. It might be too sensitive to specify a particular good or service so I won’t. Say for example a desirable item or service is offered by a kabayan (literally “townmate” but used by all Filipinos to refer to each other) to his fellow countryman, a recent arrival to New Zealand. The latter, trusting the word of his new friend not only because they are both Filipinos but come from the same province and city, speaking the same dialect, immediately and gratefully accepts the offer, believing it to be a superior, or at least competitive price.

What newcomer kabayan doesn’t know is that the price that he is paying to his new kabayan friend is not only uncompetitive but is much higher than market price, or what the fairest price would be. But because he trusts his countryman, he will pay the price for his naivete. A costly lesson, which he could’ve avoided had he not been so trusting or at least used the internet to check prices and the friendship of his new-found and soon-to-be ex-friend.

Over the last few summers and autumns (it’s summer now in Wellington), we’ve dealt with and been exposed to many kinds of Pinoys, mostly good and a few not-so-good, and for what it’s worth, bato-bato po sa langit, ang tamaan wag sana magalit (nothing directed against anyone) here are my five centavos’ worth of advice:

Maintain a healthy sense of scepticism, no matter how much you share in region or dialect with a goods or service provider, or the things (hometown, schools attended, sports teams you follow) you have in common. So you grew up within 5 kms of each other, went to the same mababang paaralan (primary school), follow Ginebra, follow Pacquiao, follow everything. You just met five minutes ago, and you’re like twins in likes and dislikes. Soulmates! Does it follow then that you should buy his 1998 Mitsubishi Pajero that has only logged 200,000 kms but has years of life left (based on the optimist’s assessment) in it?

This is only a random example but it has happened many, many times in New Zealand (with facts and details slightly changed of course). Make a new friend, discover all the things you have in common, learn how similar your likes and dislikes and inevitably the subject of things you need and will purchase soon will surface in the kilometric conversation. The other guy might not have even intended to make a quick dollar or pull a fast one, the temptation is just too much. But the situation presented itself, and by the bare facts presented you just seemed too eager to believe everything he said, so…

understand that as a newcomer (if you’re a newcomer), everything is new, including pricing and the market. respect your ignorance, for lack of a better way to say it. Not only the currency and exchange rate are something to be learned when a migrant is FOB (fresh off the boat), everything is new. From basic commodities like groceries and fuel to rent and basic services, each item must be learned and taken to heart price-wise, not just by the primary income earner but also the homemaker and the elder members of the family. The market (forces of supply and demand) determines price, but what is the market? Like the Philippines, New Zealand has its own set of peculiarities that every Pinoy learns automatically, but some learn faster (or slower than others).

And this different rates of learning is what some unscrupulous Filipinos take advantage of. Again we go to the example of the car, which to 85% to 90% of people living in New Zealand is an absolute necessity. (If you have no family and live in highly urbanized areas like Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington, maybe you won’t need it. But as a Filipino migrant, you’re part of a very small minority.) As in the Philippines and nearly anywhere else, a car is the costliest purchase you will make after buying your house. BUT there is a wide range of choice, from brand-new luxury cars to cheap utility second hand models.

To a relative newcomer straight from our homeland, who knows next to nothing about buying a car in NZ, he or she is an easy target for people who will take advantage, selling to them overpriced, low-quality cars that they can ill-afford to buy and use for the next five years. The question is, are those who take advantage of these newcomers our very own countrymen? I leave this question unanswered, and just advise Precious Reader to pass it on, think ten times before making a big purchase. Whether or not you are buying from a kabayan. And finally…

Do your research. This tidbit of commonsense advice is companion to the first two above, but it can stand alone. Do you check prices before buying anything you like? Ask around for word-of-mouth tips? Of course, we all do! Doing so, we help prevent people taking advantage of us, kabayan and others alike. We spot outrageous offers instantly, know a bargain when we see one, and we also don’t need to be a manghuhula (psychic) to know if someone is trying to help us out with a purchase or just unloading an unwanted and outdated item on us, leaving us with the proverbial empty bag.

There is a wealth of information at our fingertips. Literally, there is an ocean of information on the internet, all you need to do is surf and google the information you need for links to further sites who specialize in analyzing the market for the goods and services requested. Every supermarket and sometimes dairies (small grocery) provides bulletin boards and price guides for cars, applicances and garage sales. On trademe.co.nz and Facebook Marketplace everything is offered on sale everyday. There is no excuse for not using this available data to just take a deep breath, read, and make an informed decision on anything you buy.

Filipinos are naturally sociable, willing to help each other out, and have the best intentions. But let’s not always be too trusting, and use common sense. That way, we don’t have kabayan, and later only ourselves to blame.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

 

Pinoy message in a (Kiwi) bottle 1


FRA110116bottle4.jpg

NOBODY WRITES LETTERS anymore, least of all Pinoys. Instant messaging, social media, Skype and even SMS for the older guys have all but sliced the world in half, no matter where we move ourselves to overseas. We are spoiled by the technology of fiber optic superfast and lightspeed communications, demand world-class service and often get it, when we compose, deliver and exchange messages with our loved ones.

It’s a sign of the times when NZ Post, the equivalent of the PhilPost or Philippine Post Office here is in danger of losing so much money that it will cease to exist and surrender all its functions to the private sector.

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It was therefore a surprise when I saw an enveloped letter given to me by a friend of mine who picked it up in, of all places, a post office. The address was incomplete except for the word “PHILIPPINES” at the bottom, the detailed address probably meant to be filled out later.

Poor guy, nageffort na nga magsulat ng liham, di pa nakarating sa pinaroroonan. When I opened the contents to help see identify the sender, it was no help. It was in a dialect I was unfamiliar with. To those who don’t know, the Philippines is chock-full of sub-languages spoken by even more people than the Tagalogs in Manila. Bisaya, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, Pangasinense and Chabacano are only a handful out of the dozens of brogues spoken all over our archipelago.

As a tribute to the effort of our kabayan I am reproducing the letter here, hope he doesn’t mind. If you Precious Reader can help translate, please do, send it back to us in the comments (thanks in advance), while we also figure out how to best reach the original intended recipients (it’s not a long letter):

different races

Mama og Papa kumusta namo diha? Buotan mga tawo dinhi sa NZ, ganahan kaayo sila og pinoy, mo respeto sad sa mga asian, tungod kay kita kahibaw mo respeto sa usag usa dali ra kaayo ma hire, bisan gamay rame sa amo company.

Taking a wild guess, given my total lack of knowledge of dialects outside Tagalog, Pangalatok (my wife’s tongue) and Bikolano (my mother’s childhood language), I’m going to say this paragraph is a positive one, and it’s obviously about employers hiring more of us, probably because of Pinoys’ sociable traits (but I could be wrong).

multiraces

Tungod kay kamao ta mo halobilo makig timbayayung, ang mga tsino kay deli makigkuyog sa deli nila kalahi, mga bumbay sad kamao sila mag paraya pero suheto sa tanan, puti sad buotan, unya taas og pasensya, mo tudlo sila sa angay buhaton, kusog lng mo inum nya usahay tapolon mo trabaho, kay taga dinhi man,

Here is a candid depiction of various races and nationalities I think, with the Chinese not too friendly with those not of their kind, is that right? Indians I’m not sure what the letter-writer thinks of them but it can’t be that good 🙂 I’m guessing “puti” refers to European Kiwis who whether good or bad, are so because they’re locals.

mga langyaw ang ng maneho sa mga farm, kay ang mga puti deli ganahan  dinhi na lng kutob, e.kumusta na lng ko sa tanan natong kaparentehan og ka igagawan nato diha, pasensya gyud wala koy pamasko sa inyo og sa mga barkada ko.

The last paragraph is an obvious commentary on the dairy industry: because locals don’t like working on farms, the vacuum is taken up by Pinoys, and this I know because a special visa pathway has been set up for our own kabayan, just to work on farms. The letter writer is obviously a relatively young person, as he is still close to his group of friends (barkada) that he made during his youth.

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Well, I’ll be very surprised if I hit the mark on even 50% of my amateur translations. I’m shortlisting the dialect used to between Cebuano and Hiligaynon, and I think it’s Cebuano. To the parents of this mystery letter-writer, you should be proud of your son/daughter, who I think is hard-working and misses you very much. So sorry if I can’t translate efficiently.  Guys, please help translate on the comments below if you can.

Mabuhay, thanks for reading!

 

 

DON’T PANIC yet regarding new visa rules, says Maricel


Maricel with her business partner and hubby Holger Weischede (photo credit to Maricel’s FB photo library, thanks)

[ Paunawa at babala : This blog / blogger is NOT giving out immigration advice or any other kind, this is just a post po and purely in the nature of opinion and reporting what we have heard from the subject matter of the post. Maraming salamat po! ALSO: There’s another e-meet on FB  1st October 2019 8pm New Zealand time. Please visit the FB pages of Maricel Weischede or New Zealand Immigration Help Service, cheers! ]

MADALING MA-STRESS sa anunsyo nung 17 Sept ng bagong rules hinggil sa work visa kung panauhing obrero ka sa New Zealand.

( Translation: It’s easy to get stressed over the 17 Sept announcement of new work visa rules if you’re a guest worker in New Zealand, Taglish na lang po from hereon.)

You need increased wages to justify staying in New Zealand! Employers, start getting accredited, otherwise your workers go home! Workers, if you don’t start acquainting yourselves with the new rules, might as well give up and go home! And so on and so forth.

These are the stuff of bangungot (nightmares), the kind to destroy even the fondest hopes and most optimistic dreams of many Pinoys and other work visa holders hoping to someday live in Aotearoa permanently, raise families and live the migrant dream.

Not scaring anyone, but despite all the reassurances and spin (restatement of negative news) of Immigration New Zealand, these have been foremost in the thoughts of not just many Filipino guest workers, but of their families, loved ones, and those they’ve left behind in Pilipinas, as well as peers, bosses and employers who’ve come to depend on them the weeks, months and years they’ve put in as hardworking, no-nonsense and team-oriented Pinoy workers.

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Not to worry and don’t panic, says, probably the most hardworking (and surely the most energetic) Filipino-Kiwi kabayan immigration counselor Maricel Weischede, who along with her husband Holger and staff at NZIHS have helped thousands of Filipinos achieve the New Zealand migrant dream.

Well, not to worry too much (because the Filipino worker never stops worrying), but not to worry like the sky’s falling and there’s no tomorrow.

Besides the need for employers to be accredited soon, the change in wages for purpose of permanent residency and the stand-down period for low-skilled workers, most of the new rules announced don’t take effect any time soon, the earliest around next year pa, according to Maricel.

Referring to the increase in wages (from around $55,000 annually to $79k), this refers to workers who were already going to apply anyway, which means you either qualify or you don’t, you just need to hurry up a bit, in less than 10 days to be exact. This is about the Work-to-Residence (WTR) work visa policy under Accredited Employer.

(For more details, please call Immigration New Zealand or refer to your adviser, disclaiming right NOW to be advising anyone, just recounting an e-meet we were lucky enough to attend with Maricel recently.)

Referring naman to the proposed, three step “employer test, job test, worker test” gateway for work visas, kabayan Maricel said that informally this is already being done anyway and it’s just a more orderly way of making sure everything’s being done to protect both employer and worker.

And about the new mandate for ALL employers to be accredited, it’s a rule that was going to be inevitable (mangyayari kahit papano) anyway. If your employer doesn’t want to be accredited with Immigration NZ, it’s probably time to change employers while you still can, and if you’re already in New Zealand, you’ll be given time naman for the duration of your visa. (again, subject to more detailed advice applying to different situations of different workers.)

But Maricel saved the best for last. Just testing Precious Reader if you’ve read all the way to the end of this post, but when asked about the distressing three-year stand-down period for low-skilled workers, she connected such policy with the recent decision removing the restriction against low-skilled workers bringing family to New Zealand.

[The three-year stand-down period is the rule forcing work visa holders earning below $21.25/hour to return to their country of origin after three years holding a work visa ]

Why would Immigration New Zealand allow workers to bring family while working in New Zealand if the entire family (including the worker) were going to be forced to go home after three years anyway?

Maricel stopped short of saying the three-year period will be reconsidered, there is nothing to support this. But reading between the lines, there is nothing wrong with hoping. And for a lot of us workers, hope is all we have.

Madami pang pinag-usapan si Maricel, but for now,  in that e-meeting we attended on FB, the biggest message was: if you can do something about the proposed new work visa rules, DO IT, AND DON’T PANIC, because there’s still time. At the same time, just work hard, keep working, and listen to advice from your adviser.

Good advice. Besides for now, all we can do is work, work, work.

Thanks for reading, thanks Maricel, and mabuhay po tayong lahat!

 

 

helping the migrant in a sea of uncertainty


 

Goodheart in Auckland

Speakers at the insurance forum sponsored by Goodheart coalition and the Philippine Embassy: (from left, back) Eddie Katigbak, Ulrike Yukei and Romy Udanga. (from left, front) Dennis Panes Magcalas, Alicat Lozano Edgar Rondon Calapati, Cora Sitchon-Laquindanum, Lani Larsen, Mary Ann Guiao and Steven Friedland, Thanks for helping our kabayan!

IMAGINE GETTING INVOLVED in a car-and-train accident, less than a month after you arrive in New Zealand. Imagine suffering a brain aneurysm as a new OFW in this country. Or, imagine falling from scaffolding while hard at work a few days into your job, despite all the health and safety precautions taken.

Now, imagine having no protection at all against the health and financial (and other) consequences of these terrible events.

Pwera usog (knock on wood) and huwag naman sana (God forbid), we hope and pray these things won’t happen to us. And God willing, they probably never will. But believe it or not, to an unlucky few of our kabayan, those exact misfortunes described above happened to them barely getting their feet wet, or getting the shoe-polish aroma out of their shiny new workboots.

The effects of these accidents and health episodes were profound and long lasting, affecting the lives, careers and families of our kabayan long after the incidents. But equally terrible , due to the suddenness and unexpectedness of the events, were the loss of life, jobs and income to our fellow OFWs and migrants that will never be replaced.

Which is why, even at the cusp of a new life abroad and with your dreams almost within reach, OFWs and new migrants alike are constantly advised to protect against uncertainty and plan for the future. And the best way to do this, according to experienced and expert kabayan advisers in New Zealand, is to purchase insurance.

At an insurance forum organized by a new Pinoy initiative, Goodhearts Coalition, experts and insurers from different areas of insurance expertise spoke last weekend before an audience of new migrants and OFWs not to sell their products but to explain they whys and hows of insurance protection in New Zealand.

For instance, the health insurance speaker, Bobby Chua of Peak Insurance informed us that because the population pressure on the public health sector increases by 40,000 per year (from migration alone), delays in receiving badly needed health services are becoming  a problem. Ordinary, non life-threatening surgery might require anywhere between six months to one year of waiting. Bone surgery or those more urgent (but still not life threatening) would require a two to six-month waiting period. There have been cases of patients dying a day before their scheduled surgery.

The best way to lighten the risk of aggravating health problems from undue waiting, would be to purchase health insurance available to anyone with at least a work visa for the last two years.

Funeral insurance also helps prevent the double tragedy of first, the loss of life and second, the problem of returning the deceased’s remains to the Philippines.

Good if your parents are wealthy and can afford to spend at least NZ$20,000 in shipping the remains home, but the overwhelming majority of our Filipinos do not have this luxury, according to Romy Udanga, financial planner and specialist.

His Excellency Ambassador Gary Domingo also pointed out that the Philippine Embassy cannot be expected to be a source of funds every time tragedy befalls our Pinoy brethren, as it is not in mandate of the Embassy to provide such. Insurance protection therefore becomes just as important to the migrant as basic needs like food, clothing and shelter.

So the next time you sit down and make serious planning, please remember our kabayan who suffered serious accidents, not just for the sacrifices they and their families continue to make, but the example they set. Migrant life is full of surprises, but we needn’t face them unprepared.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay and thanks also to the Goodheart coalition for this initiative!

 

3 ways pinoys are hurt/offended by others & why we shouldn’t take offense


[I originally wanted to entitle this post “silly ways Pinoys are offended…” but realized it doesn’t help to label us in negative ways. What’s silly for one person may not be for another. thanks and acknowledgment to YouTuber and influencer Jessica Lee for the video, which I don’t own. Thanks for reading! ]

A GOOD WAY to realize that Filipinos (Pinoys) are more “hurt” than “offended” by perceived slights by other races is to use Google Translate, English into Tagalog. Type “offended” into the English box for translation and you’ll see “nasaktan” which, as every bagoong-blooded Pinoy knows, translates to “hurt” more than anything else.

There’s no scientific evidence backing it up, but I believe Filipinos are among the most “emotionalized” people on Earth. Instead of getting offended, we are hurt by certain things, because we “emotionalize” things, meaning we have to like or dislike things, not just interpret everyday things and gestures as what they are, things and gestures. When you think about it, people don’t do things for us to like and dislike, they just do.

One way to describe it is our tendency to be hurt rather than offended , a kind of “cognitive bias” (or slightly wrong way of seeing and perceiving things), although to other cultures and races it would be a reason to be offended, outraged or embarrassed. It’s important to remember that bukod-tangi (uniquely) here are a few ways this may happen:

When Filipinos smile to someone, and that someone doesn’t smile back. Filipinos are big smilers. Unless there’s something seriously wrong with my day, or my world is being turned upside down (to use a mild hyperbole), ) nearly always smile at whoever I encounter. Not so with other people, or other races, as I have come to observe living in New Zealand more than a decade.

Before, when I smiled at someone and that someone didn’t smile back, I immediately put it down to something being wrong, e.g, I did something wrong to or for that person and that person was trying to make me realize such. Or, that that person hadn’t been having a good day, or was in an otherwise bad mood.

Those are two out of many, many possibilities, but Filipinos like me, for some reason or other, tend to focus on the above. Indeed, I pass by friends, acquaintances and workmates who hardly acknowledge me when I smile at them, and after a few moments we engage in serious communication. I have gotten used to this now, the lack of smiles in the workplace, and everywhere else. It’s no longer a biggie for me.

When a person is eating, and doesn’t invite you to join him/her in the meal. Ewan ko (I don’t know) how it started or when it became a cultural thing, but inviting someone present or passing by to partake of your meal is automatic to a Pinoy. It’s probably a history of common hardships and barangay (village) fellowship combining to evolve into a pleasant, altruistic tradition.

Modern living and realities of privacy have in time caught up with other cultures and even our own. It’s no longer unusual for diners in an office lunch room to eat together and exchange pleasantries without sharing food. Similarly, when I pass by someone having a late lunch or early merienda, I don’t expect that person to offer me his/her food. And anyways, even among fellow Filipinos, I don’t expect to actually share in the meal, just be asked.

Raising the voice and being argumentative either during discussions or stressing a point. Let’s all admit it, almost unanimously, that Filipinos are a bit on the sensitive side. As in first point above, di mo lang ngitian (just forget to smile), and misinterpretations are bound to arise. Malimutan mo lang batiin (just forget to greet), and hurt feelings are sure to follow.

What more when voices are raised, sometimes in passion, sometimes for emphasis. Among  colleagues, contemporaries and co-workers, you can’t avoid this. It’s part of human nature, across genders, races and generations.

Just not among Asians, particularly East Asians. The Confucian orientation of so many countries this part of the world defines gentleness, subtlety and tactfulness as the ideal way of communicating. So that brusqueness, bluntness and directness are seen as being uneducated, rude and just not the way to do things.

For Pinoys in a discussion and everyday communication, you may get your point across and (apparently) win arguments, but you won’t win hearts and minds. Arguing for argument’s sake is a good skill for lawyers and debaters, but it’s not gonna make you many friends among Filipinos.

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I think the most important lesson that Pinoys, friends of Pinoys and other Asians could take from these observations is to never take things personally. There are a thousand and one interpretations of a person’s actions and gestures and yours is only one of them. For all you know, a person might not even be thinking of you when you are confronted with what you think is a hurting, or offensive gesture.

Second is, the way you and I and fellow filipinos take things is different from the way other people take them. You may be 100% familiar with the way your countrymen, kabayan and compatriots. There is no right or wrong way of interpreting actions and gestures, but we spend so much energy second guessing our encounters with others. In the end, our happiness (or lack of it) depends only on ourselves.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

 

ang sampung utos (10 commandments) ng “pastoral care” sa NZ


[Not only is it a longish post, it’s also in Taglish. If enough of you Precious Reader request, I’ll repost one in predominantly English. hello and welcome to Wellington Mr Mel Fernandez! Thanks in advance for reading, and thanks in advance too to the kabayan subjects of the pictures as well as the owners of the same! Please send in your names should you wish me to identify you, to both subjects and owners! ]

KASAMA NA  sa pagsalubong at pagwelcome sa bagong salta mong pinsang galing prubinsya ay ang pakikisukob nya sa iyong munting dampa, pagsukob nya sa inyong hapag kainan, at paggamit nya ng lahat ng iyong gamit at kung kailangan, damit at kung anu-ano pa.

In other words, you tell your country cousin, what’s mine is yours, mi casa es su casa, and to a reasonable extent, feel at home (but don’t wear out your welcome). Because you’re new in my town, and it’s my town, it’s my responsibility to put out the welcome mat, get you settled, and make your entry into a new country as easy as possible.

Though it’s often taken for granted, for Filipinos in New Zealand we call this simple act (or acts) of kindness “pastoral care” although it’s done in the spirit of bayanihan (“townmate-ship” for lack of a better term) and pakikisama (“getting along”) but recently here it has been prone to abuse, for financial gain, taking advantage of the ignorance and vulnerability of the newcomer.

Do we have to mention that it’s un-Filipino, un-Christian and downright mean?

Just to help all of us along, handed down to us from our elders and ninuno (ancestors) are the sampung utos (ten commandments) of pastoral care:

I. UNANG UTOS : unawain ang pagkabaguhan ng bagong dating. (sympathize with the unfamiliarity of the newcomer) Parang sanggol (baby) ang bagong dating. He/she has to deal with the newness of his/her dwellings, the people around him/her, his / her new job, even the weather. (Suko na po ako, from hereon I’ll just use the male pronoun sorry.) Everything is new to him! So the biggest favor we can do for our kabayan is to recognize that he is just starting to take it all in, for the first time, ever. A little more patience, a little less hurry to settle him in, and unless it’s absolutely necessary for him to hit the ground running, a little more wisdom in letting him absorb things at his own pace.

II. IKALAWANG UTOS : ipaliwanag lahat ng pangunahing pagbabago sa pamumuhay sa New Zealand. (explain the basic changes of living in New Zealand a Filipino should make). Basic Kiwi English, getting around, life skills like cooking, using basic appliances, and driving are things that slowly but surely need to be learned by the bagong dating. There are no ifs or buts for this, if he is to survive and get by on his own, as anybody should. For sure it’s good to ease the kabayan into the new environment, but just as crucially, things like crossing the street (look right instead of left first) and avoidance of sir and mam, etc. should be learned. Dressing for the weather, avoiding dangerous areas and a little briefing about Kiwi’s do’s and don’t’s (it’s almost embarrassing to have to say this, but  knowing  that urinating in public will actually get you arrested might be important to many Pinoys of drinking age) . And things like that.

III. IKATLONG UTOS. Get the basic needs right. Yes, he is skilled. and yes, he has a little money for the first few months. But our newcomer needs a basic checklist sorted, and we need to help him out here. He needs to have a decent place to stay, a comfortable bed, basic kitchen and toilet facilities and a little moral support while he looks for his first job or on his first few days on the job. 95% of the time these needs are filled by the employer if he already has a job, relatives if he’s lucky enough to have some in the new city, or friends made from before the migration. Otherwise, kind souls like yourself from his church, or volunteers who specialize in “pastoral care” are his only way to adapt and adjust.

IV. IKA-APAT NA UTOS.  if it’s your duty or obligation to help him out, do it the best and most efficient way possible. If you’re the kabayan’s employer or his representative, make his transition into New Zealand living as enjoyable and pain-free as possible. It will come back to you in the form of employee gratitude and efficient work. If you’re the recruitment agency or latter’s representatives in New Zealand, then by gosh please do your job and provide every care and comfort.

V. IKALIMANG UTOS. Don’t take advantage. Especially if there is a conflict of interest, please do NOT do business or offer goods or services to the newcomer for gain. You are the first point of contact (well, besides the employer if one exists) of the newcomer. He owes you a lot, and human nature dictates that he will trust you. Please do not take advantage of this trust for your gain. Do not sell him goods that you yourself wouldn’t buy or you know he doesn’t need (yet), and if selling can’t be avoided, don’t sell at an unfair price. Don’t offer to do things for him, then charge him for services rendered later. Worse, don’t attempt to recommend things for him he’s not ready for, in the guise of trying to help, when you’re actually profiting from such transaction. A good example would be convincing him to buy your car, or a car you recommended, when he is as yet unqualified to drive. At the very least, this goes against the spirit of being a good neighbor and kabayan, and at worst it’s criminal and unkind.

VI. IKAANIM NA UTOS. Don’t exploit for other kinds of gain. Helping out is a good thing, but don’t do it for the wrong reasons, like for appearance’s sake, to look good for your other kabayan, your organization, your church or your community,  We all want to look good, but pride is always lurking behind every good deed. Let’s try to do goodness, for goodness’s sake. I know this is better said than done, and I’m no angel myself. But it’s still worth aiming for.

thanks and acknowledgment to today.mims.com!

VII. IKAPITONG UTOS. Don’t help in expectation of a favor to be repaid in the future. We all believe in good karma. Bad karma as well. But if you believe in the law of the universe, we might as well follow the rule that if things will happen, they will happen, especially in the case of positive things. Pastoral care is no different. Please don’t lend shelter, clothing or food to a bagong dating thinking that the same person or his family will help you out later. It is better to think, well, hopefully they will pay it forward to someone else who will need the same kind of help later. As you were helped, so shall you help, parang ganun.

VIII. IKAWALONG UTOS. Share the effort. I’ve heard it said once in New Zealand, many hands make light work. Same is true when you provide care for a newbie. If he and his family need temporary lodgings, a couple of families could put up the dad and a son and the mom and a daughter in separate houses, kung kulang ang kwarto (if there’s not enough room). A car pool could be set up to bring parents and kids to work and school, respectively. And so forth and so on. It’s more economical, and more sociable. Besides, Filipinos like to do things communally anyway, so it’s no biggie. Resources are saved, people are cared for, and the community is stronger. Everybody wins!

IX. IKASIYAM NA UTOS. Don’t spoil the newcomer. Give a man a fish, and feed him for a day. You know the rest. Encourage the new guy to start absorbing things and learning like a sponge from day one. It can’t be done any other way. Try to lead him out of his comfort zone. If things are TOO easy for him, he won’t be encouraged to do things on his own, and that’s when trouble starts. Driving, learning to interact with locals, and getting around are all things you can learn only by doing it yourself, it can’t be taught. And that’s why before long, the newcomer must be pushed to go it alone.

X. IKASAMPUNG UTOS. Encourage the newcomer to pay it forward. This is just a reiteration of the seventh rule, but it’s worth restating it: the way of life of people helping people, bayanihan, getting along, whatever you call it, is a never-ending cycle. It works because people pass the good vibes on. Backwards is good, but forward is even better. The best way to recognize and acknowledge the good that was done for you is to do the same, for the next guy. That’s how it works. And that’s how pastoral care lives on, hopefully with the purest of intentions and bringing out the best in all of us.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat, thanks for reading!

 

“utang na loob,” sa pananaw ng OFW (the Filipino’s debt of gratitude, in an OFW’s eyes)


rock-climbers-helping-each-other-1[Google Translate says it all : type in utang na loob in the space for Filipino and the English translation says “indebtedness” which very insufficiently describes what you want described. Just a few of our thoughts on the matter. thanks for reading, thanks and photo acknowledgment to carryonfriends.com]

NAPAKAHIRAP IPALIWANAG sa dayuhan ang kunsepto ng utang na loob. Sa simpleng formula ng dagdag at bawas, once nakapagbayad ka ng utang, tapos na yon. Di madaling intindihin ang tuloy-tuloy at walang-tigil na pagtanaw ng utang sa katrabaho, kaibigan o kamag-anak. Kung hindi ka Pinoy or may asawang Pinoy, di makukuha sa unang paliwanag (o kahit pangalawa) ang katagang utang na loob.

What we fail to explain to many non-Filipinos (and probably to ourselves) is that although the idea of utang na loob is abstract to others and particular to our culture, in my humble opinion utang na loob in itself is subdivided into different levels and degrees. A good situation in which to explain utang na loob is the OFW (overseas Filipino worker) setting, where at the outset, the OFW is almost always forced to ask help from others.

But before that, I need a working definition of utang na loob that hopefully you will agree with, that we can both use. From personal experience, what we hear, and popular culture, utang na loob for me is a debt that may or may not be financial, so massive that it may take a lifetime to pay, or a debt that can never be repaid, from the perspective of either the creditor or debtor, or sometimes both. Does that work? OK.

For a better understanding of utang na loob, the theory is that all debts under this category take a lifetime of payback, that you keep paying it back, only in different degrees. The person you borrow from may think you returned too much, or “sobra ang bawi,” and may likewise feel obligated to return some of it, therefore repeating the process of having to pay it back, and so forth and so on:

Minor utang na loob, or little things to help the OFW’s family while the OFW is away. When the OFW leaves, his wife is left with multiple kids and responsibilities. Undoubtedly she’ll need a little help babysitting and minding the household. You do this, because well you take care of your own kids anyway, what’s one more. Besides, your kumpare’s son gets along with your own. The two boys become as close as siblings, going to school together, playing after school, even having sleepovers. You look after the boy as if he was your own. Your kumpare never forgets this small kindness, and when you yourself need a little assistance when it’s your turn to go abroad, he looks after your son. Just returning the favor.

I don’t know if we can classify this as utang na loob, actually, because it’s not massive and it doesn’t take a lifetime to pay back. But it’s the unanticipated sneakiness of the transaction, for example I do this for you, you do this for me. It’s almost like an I scratch your back you scratch mine affair. Before you know it, there’s been a lifetime of doing and returning favors. But still the spirit of utang na luob is there.

Moderate utang na loob, or favors relatives would do for each other, that makes life a lot easier for the debtor. A good example for this is the newcomer or newbie OFW in a strange land. His friend or distant relative has been there ahead of the newbie, and therefore has had a chance to settle his affairs, found a place to stay etc. or even bring in all or part of his family to stay as long as he works in said strange land.

So the one ahead (let’s call him the kuya  or senior OFW) does the natural and decent thing: he takes the bunso or younger OFW in, gives him room and board, feeds him a couple of weeks, does everything for him while the latter prepares himself for living overseas. Even documentation, paperwork, getting a car, all the little (but big) things that make life so much easier, and more importantly, shelters the junior OFW from unscrupulous and the fraudsters, sadly some of them OFWs themselves, and saving him a whole lot of wasted cash, disappointment and hassle.

Because of this, junior OFW gets settle in easily, gets his family earlier than expected, and his life prospers ahead of schedule. What does he do? Years later, when senior OFW gets sick, needs to go home (he has not prepared for the uncertainties of illness and occupational hazards) and leaves everything behind, bunso or younger OFW takes in the family of the elder who have suddenly become homeless and vulnerable, filling in the gaps while all the resources are devoted to Kuya’s recovery. And when Kuya OFW’s retirement finally arrives, who else is there for the help and support while Kuya’s family gets back on its feet? Of course it’s Bunso OFW, now a manager, who hires Kuya’s eldest son to work abroad, repeating history, and paying forward the kindness he so gratefully received from Kuya years back.

Madalas tayong makakita ng pagganti ng utang na loob between our kabayan, but in reality it’s often seen between co-workers, townmates (magkababayan) and relatives. It’s a revival and extension of the Golden Rule, doing for others what you’d want them to do for you. Especially in times of need.

Major utang na loob, or massive favors that change the lives of the debtor for the better. I forgot to mention that junior or bunsong OFW even before being helped by Kuya OFW, already incurred a massive debt of gratitude from his godfather or Ninong. His godfather not only paid the recruitment fee that enlisted Junior for that precious job abroad, Ninong also lent him money for the airplane ticket, without which his first day on the job wouldn’t have been possible.

The utang (debt) was a “soft loan,” meaning pay when able, payable whenever and wherever Junior and his family was ready to pay. Loans like these are often without interest and can remain unpaid for many years if at all. No matter, Ninong never expected it to be repaid anyway.

But Bunsong OFW was and is a man of gratitude and long memory. He not only repaid the debt in full within three years (albeit without  interest), when Ninong unexpectedly died and left behind a widow, Bunso not only rushed home to take care of the funeral and post-funeral details, he also asked his Ninang (not really a godmother but out of respect a title given to his godfather’s wife) first to visit them abroad, and then ultimately to live with them. This, something Ninang’s own children couldn’t do for her.

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But Bunso, his wife or kids didn’t care. For him, it was merely a debt being repaid, although the principal was repaid many many years ago. He was merely doing what he thought was expected of him. Not only was his Ninang like family to him and considered a second mother, he and the rest of his family felt happy doing it. Unsurprisingly, his family was all the better for it, as Ninang, grateful for being needed and the company of a second family, gave all of her life and energy, until literally the end of her life.

All’s well that ends well, for such is the nature of utang na loob. For sure sometimes it’s abused, but on balance it is here to stay with us Filipinos.

What is your idea of utang na loob? Answers will be appreciated, kabayan or no.

Thanks for reading, happy Easter! Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay!