Pinoy message in a (Kiwi) bottle 1


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.

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

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).


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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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!

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]

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.

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

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!

Mga Pintados ng Wellington 3 : Mike & Cy’s store is also our tambayan, atbp


cy and mike

Above : Cy and Mike in their beloved store. Below: the store premises on 245 High St Lower Hutt.

AN ONLINE ROMANCE ACROSS THE SEAS, a job rejection, and an earnest desire to create a Filipino community tambayan: in themselves individually they don’t mean anything, but taken together these events influenced our kabayan to put up one of the most popular Pinoy stores in the Lower North Island: the Philippine-Pacific Products store in Lower Hutt.

Online romance. But let’s backtrack a bit, to the first factor, the online romance. Nothing blends better together (sampaloc/tamarind, green chili, tomato and onion for sinigang, so to speak) than a Pinay (Filipina), an overseas guy, and a laptop/smartphone. Hundreds of thousands of happy couples worldwide get linked up, figuratively and literally, through the magic of online dating.

Cyrell and Mike were no different, except that they were both in it for the long-term. No isang-linggong pag-ibig, Tinder swipes or rash decisions for them. The online acquaintance became a relationship, and the relationship became a commitment culminating in Cy (as Cyrell’s called) arriving in Wellington May of 2012 after getting married in the Philippines, right into Mike’s waiting arms.

Job setback. Shortly after a sweet sweet (and much anticipated) honeymoon, Cy our kabayan set about to find a job to support Mike as provider. Would you believe, with two Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a masteral degree, Cy scored only two interviews out of 50 responses to her job applications, and landed zero acceptances? For such an academic background, the Filipino-Kiwi couple didn’t expect such a setback, but decided to turn it to their advantage.

They realized that the lack of job openings for Cy was a strong sign for them to look for business opportunities just waiting to be discovered — preferably one taking advantage of Cy’s Filipino connection.

Then, it was as if the sea parted, the trees bent and the grass bowed to make their store possible. After a fruitless search for potential stores and locations in Wellington proper, Newlands and Tawa, the former owner of Filipino Mart in Lower Hutt, after being referred to them, asked Cy and Mike if they were interested in buying the store, assets and all. The rest was history.

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

philippine pacific storeCommunity tambayan. Yet, the story wouldn’t be complete without the third factor we mentioned upstairs: the couple’s wish to create a Lower Hutt  tambayan (literally “waiting area,” but evolving to community center) where everyone, being welcome, could spend a couple moments meeting kabayan before heading home.

It’s a natural catchbasin for human overflow: Pinoy tradesmen coming home from work, Pinay nurses finishing their shifts, and Pinoy kabataan (youth) leaving class. Even the latter waiting for rides from their parents can wait at the store.

No numbers are taken, but dozens and dozens of Filipinos and Kiwis go through the doors of Philippine-Pacific store daily to shop, browse, just see how things are going with the rest of the grocery buying community, and even ask about services offered and enjoyed by many Pinoys in our Lower Hutt barangay.

And by the way, every sort of Pinoy product can be found here. UFC ketchup, del Monte spaghetti sauce, Star Margarine, Lady’s Choice sandwich spread and Magnolia ice cream are just a few of the well-loved Filipino brands not usually found in New Zealand supermarkets but readily available here. Even ingredients for menudo, sinigang, dinuguan and all other traditional Philippine dishes are regularly sold in Philippine Pacific Products.

But back to the couple’s vision. Mike and Cy want the store to be a community hub or center.

Said Cy: “we want our store to be a place where people stop over not just to buy or shop for things but to share their day with me and (her husband) Mike, to swap stories and tell us about their daily lives. We love that part of her job and business, just as much as making a living and earning a profit at the end of the day.”

Well said Cy and Mike, and mabuhay Philippine Pacific Products!

PS. for more info on our favorite store, please visit thanks and maraming salamat po!

[ material for Pintados ng Wellington? Pintados was one of the first terms used by the historian Pigafetta for the early inhabitants of the Philippine Islands, a term we now proudly use for overachieving, friendly and nationbuilding Pinoys in Wellington and the larger New Zealand. Please send us your material and data for anyone or any group you want featured here, kabayan or not! ]

forever Kiwi, forever Pinoy : mabuhay ka Angelo Tuyay!

Angelo Tuyay. apologies in advance to the Tuyay family for blogging about him in advance without consulting them. photo acknowledgment to the New Zealand Herald.

[Posthumously the Order of the Knights of Rizal Wellington Chapter has awarded kabayan Angelo Tuyay a certificate of commendation for his heroic and brave act, a small token of our immense appreciation. Two nations are grateful to you kabayan! ]

AFTER LONG days and graveyard shifts, my lower back feels sore and dodgy (sinusumpong). My joints aren’t that great, either, but it’s partly due to a little too much beer, no fault of my body and all due to my stubbornness. It takes longer to get ready in the morning, but ask anyone my age and that’s no surprise.

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

I’m alive though, and to greet the day alive and well is more than anything I could ask for. Besides knowing my family is likewise alive and well, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

For a certain kabayan though, some things are worth more than the things we take for granted above. For him, helping others in need, in trouble, is the reason for being in this world. There is no limit attached to this duty of helping others, not even to the extent of making the supreme sacrifice.

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

Facts are scant, but to use a Filipino term, traydor (treacherous) rip currents hid beneath otherwise calm waters at Hot Water Beach near Auckland last week.

Kabayan Angelo Tuyay leapt head first, fully clothed into the water upon hearing the cries of two girls who were in obvious distress due to rip currents, also known as an”undertow.”

Angelo was able to keep the girls afloat until help arrived. Unfortunately, he was himself in trouble and unable to keep himself from taking water in.

Fifty-five minutes were used by four doctors present trying to revive our kabayan. At that point, he was declared dead.

In retrospect, we would like to define in those fateful last moments Angelo’s heroic acts:

instant and without hesitation – The moment he realized the two young girls were in urgent need of assistance, he used every last ounce of his energy, wasting not a single moment in reaching the helpless. Which was just as well, because any delay would’ve been fatal to the girls. He made the instant decision, without regard for his own safety.

selfless– Human nature is after all, a lifetime of self-preservation. But we become bigger than ourselves and our nature when, against common sense, we reach out to help someone. Angelo decided to go against human nature and put aside fears for his own welfare. That gift of himself that he gave to those two girls, the latter will treasure for the rest of their lives.

generous – We can spend our entire lives building up savings, wealth and prosperity in order to give gifts to our loved ones. But nothing, nothing can match the gift of offering up one’s own life in order to preserve those of others. It is a gift that is both priceless and precious. It has no value in money terms, and yet it is the gift that is worth more than any material thing that the wealthiest man on earth could give.

It is this gift that Angelo gave, that has honored life, and which has honored us all.

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

In one act, Angelo has fused the supreme values of both Filipinos and Kiwis – that of helping others at the expense of self. Call it bayanihan. Call it Kiwi-ness.

That day, before God called him back to Paradise, Angelo Tuyay was forever Pinoy, forever, Kiwi, and eternally both.

God bless Angelo Tuyay, and God bless us all. Mabuhay!




giving back to our river

Hutt River cleanup group

[A portion of the 15 September 2018 Hutt River cleanup volunteer group, led by His Excellency Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo, and the Hutt City Mayor Hon. Ray Wallace of Hutt City. Also in the picture are leaders of Pinoys in the Hutt community like FILIFEST president Anita Mansell, QSM and KASAGIP  Chairman Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Phil Army Reserve), Alice Lozano, Trustee of the Filipino Migrant’s and Worker’s Trust; and members of the Estonian community in Wellington, who made up for their modest number with energetic participation, and the hardworking Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington. Believe it or not, that’s my hand raised in the background. 🙂 mabuhay ang kalikasan! (thanks to Marivic Reyes of the Phil Embassy for the pic!) ]

THERE’S NO SUCH thing as oversleeping. You sleep as much as you need, and you need as much as you sleep, limited only by obligations and responsibilities like work and family.

The only time I can indulge in sleeping on demand (or sleeping in, as Kiwis/New Zealanders like to call it) is on weekends. But Saturday had a higher calling, a bit more important than getting rid of sleep debt. The region’s most important waterway was beckoning.

As part of World Cleanup Day, the local council (equivalent of our Sangguniang Panglungsod) organized a river cleanup for a body of water that serves more than 100,00 residents, provides a secondary source of water to the larger Wellington region, and is one of the more restful and picturesque sceneries anyone can imagine.

I know, because as an active runner and exerciser, I run alongside the Hutt River at least thrice a week and I have shared endless walks with Mahal my wife enjoying its company more often than I can imagine.

Doing a cleanup is the least I can do for the Hutt River, given all that it’s done for my health and well-being. I would be doing it with kabayan from my Filipino community in Wellington, and other citizens of Hutt City, or Lower Hutt as it’s more popularly known

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

Amazingly, no exaggeration, due to the energetic efforts of the Philippine Embassy and local Pinoy clubs, more than three-quarters of the cleanup team of 100+ volunteers turn out to be ethnic Filipinos like myself. We are divided into teams that focus on Hutt Central, Moera and other nearby areas each team.

Honestly, the riverside and surrounds are relatively very clean compared to similar counterpart areas I’ve been exposed to back in the Philippines. I’ll leave it at that.

We put wastes into different bags depending on how they would be ultimately disposed. Regular rubbish, paper-based and similar stuff get chucked into one bag. Recyclable things like plastic, into another. Finally, glass and hazardous substances, into a bucket that’s carried by one person per team.

The dodgier stuff that I remember picking up: cigarette butts, shards of broken beer bottles, I think I even picked up a used condom. Overall, it wasn’t supposed to be a pretty sight, picking up the refuse and detritus of a riverbank, but I remembered that a few homeless people living in their cars ended up spending the night on the riverside, and that probably accounted for most of the rubbish. The river didn’t deserve this, but then again, that’s probably why we were there.

It was a good experience, helping cleaning up the Hutt River, which has been so good to me. I want my kids, grandkids and great grandkids to see what I see, enjoyed what I enjoyed.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the cleanup regardless of race, political affiliation, creed and belief. The river was and is for you, me and everyone, now and forever.

It was a good day.


‘mabuhay ang kalayaan!’ to serve as honor guard 12th June

main room honor guards

Independence Day rites at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, New Zealand. I had the additional honor of carrying the flag. Extreme left is H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, KASAGIP Honor Guard Commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve). I am flanked by Miggy Siazon and Ted Lacsamana.

[Note: thanks and acknowledgment to KASAGIP, a Wellington Pinoy self-help volunteer group organized by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, Rachel Pointon and others; KASAGIP Honor Guard commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve), the Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington led by H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, and many others yet unnamed. Mabuhay kayo!]

IN THE OLD days, kings and lords couldn’t have defended their realms with just knights, swordsmen and men of valor. The best and bravest warriors had to be close to the king to protect him.

That meant that the farmers, builders, bakers and butchers, the humblest of the king’s subjects, all “volunteered” to be first in line, against the barbarian invaders or rival kingdoms.

The tradition of common folk in the army, volunteering for their leader, came to mind our Independence Day (Araw ng Kalayaan) when we volunteered to march as honor guard, bringing in the Philippine national flag, at the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand’s official residence in Wellington.

We are all common folk. I was and am a factory worker; our leader, although he was in the Army Reserve back home, is an accountant by trade and worked in the finance industry. All the others were and are comrades hardly out of university and had just started their jobs in the city.

We met all sorts of Filipinos at the occasion: community leaders, volunteers like ourselves, and kabayan just wanting to celebrate our independence day. In the end, it was just like one informal gathering wishing we were back home in the Motherland. One day we will all come home and be with all our loved ones again.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan everyone!