Juan Pinoy and Maria Pinay shouldn’t feel TOO bad when…

JUST BECAUSE we’re the friendliest, charmingest, easiest to get along with, most sweet-smelling and hygienically-conscious people from our corner of the world (I just added the last two adjectives to see if you were paying attention) it doesn’t mean our friends and colleagues in the global village will go out of their way to be likewise.  If you’re a visitor or migrant to an adopted country, especially one that’s vastly different from your own, expect a world of difference (pun intended) from what you’ve grown up with all your life.  Being that I’m a guest worker in New Zealand, I guess you and I shouldn’t feel too bad when :

Your Kiwi (or non-Pinoy) boss confronts you about work issues instead of talking to others about you, which is what many Pinoy managers do.  Actually what happens quite a few times back home is (1) your bisor talks to others about your performance issues then (2) hopes the results of the conversation makes its way to you.  I know this is a crappy way of communicating, but that’s a fact of life not just in the Philippines but in many Asian countries, where loss of face is inflicted only as a last resort.  Senior managers, middle managers and supervisors take the path of least resistance as it involves too much confrontation, in-your-face cringe-worthy discussion of faults, shortcomings and work slippage that sometimes takes too much energy out of finite resources.

So their Kiwi counterparts often roll up their sleeves, take you aside and do the practical thing : talk about work, talk about you, and talk about how to make things better.  It’s really better this way, rather than having to guess if your boss is the one spreading the negative feedback about you , and how much of it is actually true.  I know this actually happens, because my boss/es have taken the time to chew me out, bite my head off, and kick my ass, and I’ve been a better worker for it.

Your Kiwi (or non-Pinoy)  friends and colleagues tell you if something you’re doing isn’t right, instead of keeping quiet, laughing at you or stabbing you behind your back.  I get along OK at the mill, but I do a thousand and one things awry and not quite right, and I appreciate it when my Kiwi workmates tell me in a lighthearted manner that things are better done this way or that.  You know if New Zealanders don’t care and aren’t concerned about you when they don’t make comments and let you find things out the hard way.  This is why I don’t mind being laughed at the first time, as long as it’s in good fun and somehow I do it better the next time.

It’s an awkard example, but during lunch a Kiwi packing guy saw me slicing meat with my spoon, which Pinoys sometimes do when they are too lazy to get a knife.  He stared at me a second, and said there’s something you can use for that Noel, and it’s called a knife.  I just smiled at him, cuz I didn’t feel like getting one, and I hoped he would move on and leave me in peace.  Maybe a few more times of him seeing me in that situation would make him get the message; either that or I better get used to the knife.

Kiwis (or non-Pinoys) talk about Pinoys as if the faults of one are the faults of the rest.  So that if we don’t win the whole thing at American Idol, don’t accept the challenge of a loudmouth boxer, or don’t stand up to a regional bully in a territorial dispute, non-Pinoys around us talk about it as if it’s a congenital defect, what they perceive as lack of the desire to win, allowing people to assert themselves at our expense, and our lack of aggression.  It’s actually a good way to start a discussion, especially since (1) they know we talk about them in the same generalized way, and (2) once we clear up these misimpressions about us, they gain a clearer understanding of how Pinoys are.

When you think about it, there are around 4 million New Zealanders, around 15 million Australians, around 20 million Canadians, and 300 million Americans, but around half of that are migrants and 1st generation visitors.  There are around 90 million Filipinos, not counting Pinoy migrants around the world.  There are infinitely greater opportunities for us to shine and overachieve, but an equally great amount of opportunities for us to stumble and slip up.  That’s why you always see Pinoys, for good or bad, in the international news cycle.  For better or worse, we will always be Pinoy in our heart, and we will defend ourselves to the death being such.  Which is why having a thick skin always helps.

Thanks for reading!

unmasking Rasputin the Racist, in a month of twilight shifts

A recent Benetton ad. Cheeky and creative. Unhate, indeed!

[ 2nd Note : This is a slightly edited version of the blog which appeared around ten hours ago before I left for morning shift, just a few added paragraphs to either aggravate or mitigate your view of the subject, and despite the inflammatory title above I remain quite neutral about such subject, thanks so much for reading ! ]

[ Note : I honestly don’t know how long this blog will be, am making it up as I go along (obviously).  I avoid negative blogs at all costs, unless there is a lesson to be learned.  Hope this one won’t be an exception to the negative rule. ]

NOT ONLY because I can’t think of a better alias sooner, but also because it’s strangely appropriate and alliteral, let’s call him Rasputin the Racist (in a non-accusatory and ironic way) OK?

I refer to my temporary bisor who’s been my shift partner the last four weeks since regular partner SuperBisor went to the Pearl of the Orient to collect his bride.  It hasn’t helped that due to production snags, our afternoon shifts have occasionally extended to late night and our night shifts to the wee hours, where the odd mechanical breakdown has been known to happen.

I perceived as ominous three senior colleagues telling me the same thing about my interim boss : the moment he gives you a hard time, tell me OK, so we can tell him off straightaway.  I nodded my head vigorously each time, but it wasn’t a promising welcome to working with Rasputin, who by the way is Kiwi and is as white as I am brown, although you probably already guessed that.

He hates that he does it, and he sometimes can’t help it, but he can’t trust people who don’t belong to his particular demographic, tends to blame the nearest non-New Zealander if and when things go wrong (which has  been me on a daily basis, since late March), and asks anyone who bothers to listen to validate his outrageous theories about alleged links between current national problems and immigrants (and related visitors) to his country.

In most dictionaries and search engines, his behavior would certifiably be defined by the R word, but to my everlasting cluelessness, I have continued to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially because I will be his subordinate.

Quite frankly he has more flaky ideas than he can handle without being labeled a bigot, xenophobe, or intolerant (actually all those terms are just a step short of the R word), and I’ll give you just three rather amusing examples.

As a dedicated cyclist, he thinks that motorists should pay a special tax (he obviously hadn’t thought of the road user’s tax) because all their cars eff up the road quality for other users.  He says this to a room full of car owners  who don’t care for his opinion, but are forced to listen because it’s tea time.

He is one of the only two people (the other is even odder than him) who feel that joining the union is a waste of time; he honestly thinks the National Operations Manager and Human Resources generalist will take the time annually to individually negotiate his compensation package.

And this is a bit personal, but he thinks no one will smell the slight, almost imperceptible aroma of alcohol on Mondays that lingers with him when he’s had a bit too much to drink on weekends.

There is actually a fourth example of his outrageous flaky behavior, and I hesitate to put in on electronic paper, but for posterity’s sake : Remember Ondoy and the resultant national calamty that visited the country?  A wire report was carried in the local paper, and of course it caught our attention, but Rasputin reportedly blurted out, after hearing that quite a number of our countrymen perished in the typhoon, that (the storms) should’ve finished off the lot of them!  Such a statement, whether or not it was serious, was certainly in poor taste, and only cemented the work family’s low regard for this person.

All these have earned him copious amounts of derision and disparaging laughter from the rest of the staff, but the irony is he’s all right with me when we’re alone.  He turns to normal when there’s no one else, probably because he thinks he has nothing to prove to an Asian like me, particularly one who is his subordinate.  I have no problem with that, as long as I am able to finish the shift without issues.

And thankfully, besides the sporadic outburst about reserving available jobs for Kiwis, the paranoia with not being able to fix a breakdown ( he is the least experienced among the supervisors) and his obsession with safety (he has a constant fear of dust explosions), we got along quite well the last three weeks.

The second-to-the-last week of our shifts together, I admit I committed a rather huge boo-boo.  I didn’t check the condition of the tape measure before measuring a wheat bin.  It was quarter to seven on a Friday, and only 15 minutes separated your tired kabayan and the restful weekend.

Plop went the lead weight and chink into the wheat, 10 meters below.  My family jewels went straight to my throat, as the tearing of the tape spelled out instant disastrous consequences for me.  Organizing a climb down to retrieve the weight would’ve taken at least half an hour, not counting the paperwork (confined space permit, health and safety assessment, etc).  Going down without a safety lookout and on my own would’ve been tantamount  to instant dismissal.  But failing to report the incident would’ve been unthinkable, think food safety and all the catastrophic results of having a lead object the size of a ping pong ball in the conveyor.

I already expected Rasputin to chew me out, insult me for ruining our Friday night, and moan about it all the way to Monday.  And truth to tell, I deserved it, stupidity and carelessness were the kindest words I could use to describe my actions.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Instead, he quietly asked me to tell him how far the tape measure was from the ladder before it tore (so he could assess how far away from the ladder the weight had dropped), quickly filled out all the forms, and went down himself (he is not afraid of heights in the least, I quickly learned). Eventually we found the weight, but my respect for his professional and non-emotional respnose to minor emergencies grew by leaps and bounds that day.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

It’s our last day today as shift partners.  90% of the staff still think he’s a jerk, and he’s a candidate for a race sensitivity course if ever there’ll be one scheduled, and I coined the term in the title only half-seriously because nobody likes him, but he survives in the mill due to his utility and the fact that he will do jobs when everyone else (qualified) is on leave.

But today at least, I will shake his hand at the end of the shift and thank him for a stress-free four weeks.  And I will continue to give him the benefit of the doubt, notwithstanding his sometimes tasteless jokes and mindless comments.

Thanks for reading !

Why Airports Are Not Your Happy Place If You’re Asian : TVOne’s Border Security

Border control in the United States (U.S. Cust...

Image via Wikipedia

[ NOte from NOel : Apologies, the subject matter this time refers to Aus/NZ TV content only. Maraming salamat po Kuya Pat, Ate Belen and all the other members of Barangay Northern Hutt Yahoo!group for accepting us , happy birthday to kabatch Wilson Lu; kudos to Doc Gerry So and Olive Montenegro Ferrer for hosting SB XLV, and to the good people of Egypt, may the Force & the spirit of the First Quarter Storm and EDSA 1/2 be with you!]

Dear kabatch, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates, Huttmates & friends :

BECAUSE so many people do them both as pasttime and professionally, I don’t generally succumb to the temptation of writing TV and film reviews, although as they say, everyone’s a critic. It’s always fun to pan this or that production, especially those splashed in hypermedia (the double episodes, the supersequels and sequels of sequels), even the reviews themselves are reviewed.

So if I’m not a paying customer, and unless there’s so much media buzz I see it coming out of my own ears, the consumer is king, and caveat emptor, or let the buyer (or viewer) beware.

I can’t avoid donating my unsolicited 60 centavos though ( two NZ cents times 30 ) on a particular TV show I watch Monday nights, whenever I’m not on early evening or late night shift, because it provokes so many reactions from me (emotional and otherwise) on different levels. The show is innocuously entitled Border Security and is popular on both sides of the Tasman Strait ( Aus and NZ ), and unconsciously I manage to prioritize it over almost everything else except ESPN SportsCenter, CNN breaking news, an ultra-wacky Man vs Wild episode ( carried by at least three channels; particularly when the preview shows the host chomping on fresh meat just to survive ) or, when I can catch it, a Justice League or Dark Knight back-to-back on Cartoon Network 🙂

And I’ll tell you why. The show is touted as a straightforward day-to-day docu-cum-reality combo on how Australian Immigration and Customs screen the sea of human and cargo traffic, in the thousands of units daily, and the drama and unexpected situations that ensue.

I admire without qualification the composure, politically correct and dispassionate way with which the Aussies handle the situations. Given the hundreds of judgment calls that come their way, whackos and the criminally inclined that can potentially wreak havoc on health and safety in their jurisdictions, the authorities shown in Border Security deserve a medal each time they pull their punches, corner the guilty or go easy on a naive, poorly prepared or ill-informed first-time traveler.

But there are memorable exceptions. I need to make mention before I forget that between half and three-quarters of the “suspects” they interview, potential drug mules, smugglers of prohibited items ( biosecurity hazards, products processed from endangered species, or undeclared food items ) are of Asian or Eurasian ethnicity.

I’m not being touchy, racially sensitive or anything like that. It’s just a fact of life I have learned, not only from watching the show but from personal experience (more on that later). If you so much as stare at any lawman, show a bead of sweat on your forehead, appear a tad too worried and/or waiting for someone else, and are tan, yellow, brown or anything else other than Caucasian, consider yourself fresh meat for a second scan ( margin for error is granted for things missed by human eyes, but not on take 2 ), short-listed for a full baggage search and longer-than-usual interview.

Again, I don’t want to raise your hackles or elicit indignant self-righteousness among the Lahing Kayumanggi. Good for you if you think there’s something fishy going on, but on each episode of Border Security, it’s an unfortunate part of policy to stereotype the potential source of problems. I won’t go so far as to use the term racial profiling, but history and experience require them to go with the odds, and the odds are that if there’s a problem, the source will be an Asian.

Believe you me, everytime I’ve gone home or back to work, whether I pass through Sydney or Melbourne, when my stopover is more than an hour and to loiter on the airport is a necessary evil, I am subjected to a random body search, no matter how I look or how seasoned a traveler I pretend to be.

Everytime I’m in a queue, I’m separated from the rest, inspected ocularly from head to toe while given the patronizing probing questions. Each time they find nothing wrong with me, just your generic garden variety Asian OFW itching to get to work / get home, spend the holidays or get back to the grind. Despite my famous glib tongue ( loose lips sink ships 😉 ), I know better than to make careless comments or terrorist jokes, and within 10 minutes they send me on my way.

That’s not always the case. In Border Security, a constant theme ( in fairness to the producers, they’re just as enthusiastic to show boners on the side of authority ) is the unintended comedy of airport or customs authorities struggling to justify making life difficult for the casual traveler.

In one episode, two red flags stood out for a bearded, long-maned, tattooed Brit. He declared he had a criminal conviction ( probably smoking one too many funny cigarets ) and secondly, traces (but nothing tangible) of cocaine were detected on the soles of his shoes. Immediately he was asked, and agreed to an extensive body search, and later the customs officer agreed that in all probability the controlled substance could have come from anywhere, and in summary there was no legal ground to bar his entry to Australia

No legal ground, of course, except the fact that everyone would lose face by allowing him into the country after subjecting him to all sorts of difficulty. In the end and to their credit, the airport heavies allowed him in, apologized for the inconvenience and wished him well.

[ Two thoughts on that : there was the slight chance that their sense of decency was swayed in the right direction by all the cameras around, and second, can you imagine that happening back home, where you can earn a night in the stockade for sticking your tongue out at Manila’s Finest ? ]

Even more memorable to me was another episode where a Filipino was again, singled out of the queue and his passport scrutinized. Part of the dialog went like this :

Interviewer : What is your occupation sir and how much do you earn ?

Pinoy : I am a businessman and I earn roughly P50,000 a month. ( asks politely ) May I ask why you are asking ?

Interviewer : I ask because I find it hard to believe that you would spend one month’s earnings just to visit this country, which I assume is to see the sights. Which reminds me, can you name any of the sights you plan to see in Sydney?

Pinoy : (visibly surprised at the question) I’m sorry but I can’t. I was hoping my girlfriend would show me around.

Interviewer : Oh, yes. She must also be part of the reason you are here. Would you mind if we called her ?

I’m cutting it short, my recollection of the interview, but you probably get my drift. Sadly for our countryman, after they failed to reach the girlfriend by home, the officer decided not to allow him entry, and sent him home on the next flight back to Manila.

My singular line of questioning here is : Can you imagine the officer asking questions like that if the guy was not a member of the non-white races, and would the officer be asking any questions like those ( bordering on the offensive ) if the interviewee were white?

** ** ** ** **

[ Note that I don’t even touch on whether or not the officer was correct in her decision, discussing that issue is probably moot as it is entirely within their authority to grant or deny entry to visitors. It would maybe just bother you a bit to wonder, as it did me, if the same decision would follow had the visitor come from the UK, Canada or Europe. ]

If you will forgive our attempts at reverse racism, the exchange above was one of the notable exceptions, and it stood out only because the traveler was a kabayan. But this is why I enjoy watching Border Security and similar shows. I am well aware, and appreciate the noblesse oblige of the First World, the post 9/11 culture of paranoia, and the need to keep borders safe.

But the frailties of human error, prejudice and prejudgments will always be there to cloud the reliability of reasoned thinking. And as the program manifests, the true-to-life situations therein bring out both the best and the worst in us.

Thanks for reading !






No Christmas on Christmas Island

35 Vietnamese refugees wait to be taken aboard...

Image via Wikipedia

Dear batchmates, schoolmates, brods, officemates, kabayan and friends :
15TH DECEMBER – Particularly during the Christmas season, it’s like rubbing rock salt over fresh wounds : you escape with nothing but your life, by the skin of your calcium-deficient teeth, from racial genocide in Iraq ( as a Kurd ) or intra-religious strife in Iran and Afghanistan ( as a non-fundamentalist Muslim ). 
You temporarily gain a reprieve in a halfway inn, sometimes called a refugee processing / detention center, but it’s more or less a dreary, shapeless limbo, with days of waiting stretching to months or years, and a temporary host nation indifferent at best and hostile at worst.
You desperately  grab at straws by availing of the services of persons best described as the scum of the earth, human smugglers that provide the crudest of sea transport, wooden outriggers with the smallest of motors and the barest of flooring. 
After braving violent churling swells of inhospitable waters between Indonesia and Australia, you somehow manage to elude the vigilant eyes of the Royal Australian Coast Guard, only to meet a cruel end at the jagged limestone cliffs of the Christmas Island shore: not only is your puny vessel shattered, but you and the rest of your co-travelers meet your end at these vicious and unyielding rocks, rendering futile all your previous sacrifices and sufferings.
Facts are scant and the list of names of the departed will probably never be official, but the story is crystal clear : people who seek better lives without the protection of lawful travel and the aegis of governments that watch over its citizens are risking life and limb for very uncertain rewards.
The true tragedy lies in the realization that those who perished earlier this week were the lucky ones, those who were able to leave the persecution, whether religious, racial or economic, of their homelands. 
For every Iraqi on that boat, there were probably hundreds more who endured state sponsored discrimination, first from Saddam Hussein‘s regime, then the US invasion supported adminstration that followed. 
For every Afghan that boarded that doomed vessel, hundreds fell prey to the fanatical fundamentalism of the Taliban. 
And Iranians who sought refuge from the seas either escaped the deadly Shiite-Sunni rivalry in their own country or the sporadic border warfare with Iraq as well.
Filipinos lead lives far from ideal at home, but we don’t suffer from a dysfunctional culture that allows people from one part of the country to decimate kababayan from another part; and we’re not burdened by intramurals from neighboring countries that cause injury and death to our citizens; and finally, we have religious leaders that don’t always lead by good sense and example, but they don’t ask us to conduct holy wars and massacres in the name of God.
For in our humble view, that is the root cause of all forced migration : lack or total absence of respect for human rights, the right to a decent living, the right to practice your own religion / beliefs, the right to form and raise a family, and most of all , the right to life itself. 
It beggars belief that in this day and age, we have states, governments and regimes that build vast armies, wage wars across oceans, monopolize trade agreements and hold as hostage whole continents and economies and yet cannot understand the basic concept of life on our Lonely Planet : that respect for human rights is respect for humanity itself.
Two weeks ago was Human Rights Week, last week brought us the Christmas Island tragedy, but this week, and every week thereafter, might as well be NOel’s Count My Blessings Week forever
I’m not a permanent resident (yet), but I got to a First World country LEGALLY and SAFELY. 
I don’t have the PERFECT job, but I get to earn decent wages, and I even get to send home money as well.  That’s infinitely more than any forced migrant can ask for. 
I’m not always treated as a first-class citizen (and I don’t always ask to be welcomed with open arms), but at least I’m not persecuted for my race, color or beliefs, and my stay doesn’t hang on a thread. 
I may not have reached the life others dream about, but it’s loads better than the life of tens of thousands of other migrants on frail boats, strange shores and uncertain horizons.
If you’re not busy today, please whisper a short prayer for the Christmas Island refugees, and join me in gratefully thanking God for the lives given us abroad or at home.
Thanks for reading, Maligayang Pasko po sa ating lahat  !

Similarities Always Better Than Differences

Southeast asia

Image via Wikipedia

THERE ARE probably many more, but one of the unintended consequences of migration is discovering perceptions of other races and cultures, and how others view your own.

Among the more popular and sometimes surprising we have picked up : Cambodians are excellent bakers of bread, pastries and related goodies; Taiwanese are remarkable in picking gadgets apart, studying how they work, and inventing more efficient models of the same (popularizing the term reverse engineering); both Malaysians and Indonesians are world-beaters in badminton, and, rivalling our own homegrown talent, Indian expertise in both information technology ( IT ) and call center operations is well-known the world over.

We’re fortunate enough to have spent our childhood years straddling both Filipino and Chinese cultures, so our face glowed with pride twice over when a Kiwi co-traveller told us that reviewing personal experience, Pinoys and Chinese adapted with greatest ease to a foreign culture, specifically his own.

It was his way of telling us that, at the workplace, in his neighborhood, in church or on the national scene, almost to a man (and woman) these people were the easiest to get along with, and vice-versa.

We avoided making comparisons among Caucasians across borders and continents, because firstly, it is like apples, oranges and bananas. The chasm is simply too great, and you cannot compare for example, Englishmen, French and Russians, just as Australians and Kiwis may look similar on the surface, but are as different as night from day. Natural distrust, historical slights inflicted on one another, and contrasting attitudes rooted in religion and ideology are just some of the reasons.

(This being our naive view, apologies if we may have offended anyone for the previous paragraph.)

Which posed the inevitable question, at least in our distracted train of thought. Among Southeast Asians and similar cultures (Polynesians, South Asians), is the tendency to look for similarities greater than the instinct to spot differences with those not of your own kind?

Pinoys within our own small circle seem to reinforce this urban legend. A flatmate observed that Samoans, Tongans and Fijians love cooking various dishes in coconut milk, and of course we Pinoys can relate to this on so many levels, witness our ginataang tambakol, Bicol express, kakanin, to name just a few orig (or so we thought) recipes.

Spanning the South China Sea : respect for elders, filial piety and involving the family in almost every aspect of life is likewise a hallmark of the Yellow Race, and again, whether we see them as Chinese from the Mainland, Overseas Chinese from different Mini-Dragons of Asia, or local Kiwi-Chinese that are as homegrown as NZ milk and butter, the basic aspects of Chinese character remain the same.

It’s probably a long shot, but various cultures that have been influenced by elements of Confucian philosophy as early as 2000 years ago, notably obedience to the state, respect for authority, and according the highest honor to education and educators, still find elements of the same today, in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indochinese traditions, and across Southeast Asia.

Inevitably, the so-called stereotypes of certain nationalities surface when we try to look for similarities rather than differences with our Asian brothers (and sisters). It’s almost as if we identify with the latter only for as long as the characterstics are positive, and distance ourselves from any comparisons as soon as the negatives become evident.

No names here, but our unfortunate combination of imbibing alcoholic beverages and the occasional crime of passion committed in the name of such, are shared by many other races particularly in the South Pacific.

 Frugality pursued to excess by the entrepreneurially inclined among some of our East Asian brethren, borrowed by other races,  has become such a basic part of our psyche as to be parodied and satirized by many who seek to disparage the otherwise unassailable business ethic of the cultures concerned.

Finally, Filipinos like to single out our former colonizers whenever the subject of our legendary indolence is brought up, but in truth almost all lands and nationalities close to the equator have their special way of dealing with the oppressive climate, while preserving productivity and harnessing energies under the tropical sun.

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

It may be a long time coming, but the moment we discard the blinders of petty prejudice, transcend our long-held stereotypes, and banish the bitterness of history is the same time we begin to see the rainbow of races for what they truly are : fellow creatures of God who like us share universal goals of attaining happiness, preserving freedom and living with love.

In our humble view, this is one of the highest blessings that a migrant may enjoy.

Thanks for reading!





Puna’t Puri ng Kabayang Naligaw sa Middle Earth

[ Notes from YLB : Thanx 4 that heartfelt shoutback Melanie, your dad doubtless sees you now and is smiling at you; we take exception to speculation that the ex NBA Champs BostonCeltics are getting long in the tooth, but we can’t deny that we saw with our very eyes that Kevin Garnett was beaten by his man 2 out of 3 fastbreaks late in the game, & Paul Pierce admittedly is slowed down by injury… sorry kung makulet, but pls tell us, any1 out there, why a team that has a $100 million payroll can’t afford more than one true point guard??? …we know the heat / humidity are just starting to rev up back home kabatch,& we feel your glistening sweat, wish we could absorb some of the chill in colder climes elsewhere & toss it back 2u…  sorry 4 d longish pamagat, it started out as a working title and kinda grew on us… Please tell us (1) how we sound in Taglish below, and (2) if anyone else wants a link to his business / networking website from YLBnoel.wordpress.com, just send us a buzz; thanx for the philstar.com and inquirer.net kudoses, BrotherKirby, awesome pix  in VeepCarol’s place of the shindig with AndyLim ! ]
Dear Mahal :
Salamat kay God Mahal at naayos rin ang papel mo finally. Parang di ko maimagine na after four years masusundan mo na rin ako rito.  Napabilib mo ako sa tyaga at patience mo sa paghihintay at paghain ng visa application, alam ko masalimuot proseso nya pero natapos mo rin nang maayos di ba?
Mangilan-ngilan lang naman mga paalala at reminder ( pareho lang ) sa yo para di ka magulat pagdating mo rito sa ating temporary adopted land :
1.  Siguro ito ang pinakamahalagang paalala Mahal, pagtawid mo ng kalye rito, titingin ka muna sa KANAN at hindi sa KALIWA. Paglampas mo ng gitna, sa KALIWA ka naman magmamasid. Ewan ko bakit ganito ang pamamalakad nila rito, pero may kinalaman ito sa RIGHT HAND DRIVE o paglagay ng manibela sa kanang bahagi ng sasakyan.  3 taon na ako rito at nagkakamali pa rin ako twing tumatawid, minsan kapag minamalas, ngali-ngali na akong masagasaan; nasisigawan at minumura pa rin ako ng mga drayber.  Mas grabe minsan si Kuya Flatmate, binubuksan pa rin nya minsan ang passenger side ng car nya at napapasigaw nang, nakupo, ninakaw ang manibela bago sya matawa at makitang mali na naman ang bukas nya ng pinto.
2.  Kakaiba ang accent ng mga Kiwi at Maori ( tribu ng katutubo ) rito Mahal, palibhasa nasanay tayo sa American accent na mahahabang vowel at nakabuka ang bibig madalas, wag kang magulat sa pananalita nila. Minsan me pagkaBisaya sila magsalita, minsan naman parang Ilokano.  Wag kang matawa Mahal, bagkus pakinggan mo sila nang mabuti at sanayin mo ang sarili mo sa mga impit nila.  Madalas, malumanay sila magsalita, parang Ilonggo at minsan ka lang makakaranas ng taong di sanay sa banyaga tulad natin (tayo na ang banyaga rito ha?).  Merun din namang mga salbaheng intolerant at wag naman sanang racist pero kakaunti lang sila.
3.  Kaya ko po pinaalala sa yo na magdala ka na ng mga toiletries dahil como mataas ng bahagya ang sweldo rito, mataas din ang halaga ng mga produkto nila lalo na mga gamit sa katawan tulad ng shampoo, conditioner, jabon at deodorant, atbp.  Para sa kanila ay katanggap2 lang ang presyo pero for us in the Philippines, hihimatayin ka.  Kaya yung mga pinakamaselan mong gamit, bilhin mo na dyan, mga 1 buwang supply.
4.  Wag ka ring mamangha kapag may nakikita kang mga Kiwi (yun pala ang tawag ng mga puti sa sarili nila) na parang mas mahal pa nila ang mga alaga nilang hayop kesa sarili nilang uri.  Aso, pusa at kung anu-ano pa, sobrang malapit sila sa mga ito at higit pa sa pangu2lila nararamdaman nila kapag nawala o namatay ang mga ito.  As you might expect, tiba-tiba mga veterinarian o manggagamot ng mga hayop dito, pero kadalasan pet lover din sila; halos atakihin nga sila nung sinabi ko na sa dakong Norte natin, kinakain pa ang aso at minsan pusa.  Hindi ito biro para sa kanila, muntik na akong sapakin ng bisor ko.
5.  Dahil summer ang dating mo rito, baka manibago ka rin sa Haring Araw na sumisilip pa rin sa kanluran dakong mga 830 n.g., extremes kasi yan. Pagdating naman ng winter, halos alas ocho na n.u., pero pababa pa lang ang buwan at lumiliwanag pa lang.  Malayo kasi tayo sa equator Mahal kaya either masyadong mahaba or masyadong maigsi naman ang araw.
6.  Kung tutuusin Mahal mas swerte ka pa nga sa akin, dahil open ang WP mo at pwede kang magtrabaho kahit kenino, basta nakursunadahan nila abilidad mo. Ayusin mo lang ang pakikitungo mo sa kanila, mga magiging boss mo, at siguradong magkakasundo kayo.
7.  Lastly, di naman sa tinatakot kita, nagaalinlangan din ako minsan, pero ang mga puti rito ay madaling magkagusto sa Asyana, lalo na sa mga Pinay.  I’m sure nabalitaan mo bout mga internet dating service para sa mga puti, ang una nilang hinahanap bukod sa mababangong bebot ay yung mga magagaling magluto, marunong mag-alaga at katamtaman sa katawan.  Ed diba ganon karamihan ng mga kalahi natin?  So there, mag-ingat ka na lang at wag kang magpaligaw rito hmm?    Siguro, ako dapat ang matakot.
Naku, I’m sure every day will be an adventure for you here Mahal, nagpapasalamat ako na at least makikita mo ang lahat na dati’y kwento ko lang sa mga chat natin pero ngayon ay mararanasan mo nang 3D, high def at THX-sensurround.
Counting the days po.
Gua ai di.
ingat palagi, ha?

Heirs of The Blue-Eyed Son of Heaven*

Taken at their Intrams, we know it's an improvement of the race :)

No connection to the story; just had to show off Nicole's pic at 17 🙂

[Notes : Seriously : did anyone really think there was ANYTHING at all scholarly or even halfway academic to back up whatever rantings and ravings we’ve been spewing here? We say this only because we want to assert beyond the shadow of a doubt that it would be a good joke to rely on any of these lines burned in the book of our life for guidance much less assurance, EXCEPT as written evidence of the random ejaculations (oratorically ha) of a distracted mind.  Very flatteringly, a batchmate has opined that we can sporadically pass these off as entertainment, thank you kind sir (and madam ); one well-wisher even calls it sometime therapy for her (maraming salamat tambien), the truth is, selfishly spilling our guts on electronic paper is our form of talk therapy, catharsis and electroshock cod liver oil (do they give that still to kids these days??? ), you are actually doing us a favor by humoring us and pretending that our tongue-in-cheek emails make sense… are we making any sense ???]

  Dear batchmates and friends:   

WE MUST HAVE been dropped at least once as an infant, sniffed too much airplane glue or licked more than the usual industrial – strength lead paint off our rusty crib (left by previous users KuyaTim & KuyaDonald), or maybe were left by Yaya too often, too close to the microwave oven / TV (same radiation), as in our advancing middle age we are still the ADHD, bipolar, dyslexic and hypersensitive / hypochondriac / allergic / multi-phobic adult child that we have always been in earlier decades.  

We can’t sit still.  Our nanoseconds-long attention span rivals that of Fr Tchou’s capuchin monkey.  We sometimes wake up feeling we have two right hands or feet, which wouldn’t be so bad except that we are sometimes left-handed, we are either exuberantly joyous or suicidably depressing, and incredibly, we still come up with new allergies everyday. (May one be allergic to one’s own sweat, single-digit Celsius, fresh air and drinking water? )  We are sick of ailments that haven’t even been discovered. And everytime we conquer an old fear, a new one crops up right in its place. 

Notwithstanding the positivity of double negatives, we came across in Yahoo! a new one to watch out for: phobophobia.  That’s right, the fear of being afraid.  Now THAT’s a cool new species for all those phobics out there… (dont forget: nothing to fear but fear itself, oo naman)                       **                    **                    **                    **  

We’ve given up trying to talk like the White Man, at the risk of abusing his hospitality.  Wait, that’s unfair, cuz we have abandoned the way the LOCALs talk here and that includes the indigenous people from whom the European settlers later appropriated the land, fellow accidental migrants and of course, everybody else who wants to sound like proper British subjects. 

Actually, Kiwis no longer sound British, they are somewhat a cross between neutral American and neutral BBC English, but definitely NOT Australian. They have their own quirky terms the way Pinoys do, but generally to an unaccustomed ear it is easy to mistake their dropped r’s and underaccented syllables for the Queen’s English.  

Instead, we try not to speak with a pronounced Pinoy accent, try not to rely on slangish speech (theirs or ours) and above all, speak slowly. Another way to say it would be : instead of trying to understand them all the time, we now focus on making them understand us.  Which in a way makes sense, since there are lots of them, and only one of us !   Sounds crazy, but crazy enough to work.

 As in, we don’t know if it’s wishful thinking, but we feel that if we stay with our original way of talking, we impart the sentiment that it’s important enough for us to make them try to understand, or at least get used to it.  This is not the ideal situation, for sure.  We all know that Pinoys / Chinoys are famous for adaptability, to the extent that we at times become better speakers of a host’s tongue / accent than the locals are (think Lea Salonga in West End) …  tama powba o hinde?

In our earnest desire to be accepted or assimilated into society, we are famous for internalizing how they sound, they who have come ahead of us and graciously accept us newcomers into their land.   When we do this, we keep alive the fiction of being two persons in one body : at work and at home … we present a face that is katanggap tanggap to the world at large, and when we return to hearth and home, we revert to the language of our childhood.    For some it works, for others not… ewan ko saan po ako papanig, but for now we are a hybrid of Jimmy Santos / Willie Revillame (who we are told we resemble) / Manny Pacquiao, and if not for the sad comment na sana Pinay na lang kami,  our predominantly male workmates seem to find our twang mildly amusing. For now.                     

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Which brings us to a related topic, particularly to race-related awkwardness : we go so far as to wonder if, relative to their peers in a UCB (United Colors of Benetton) community, caucasian kids are predisposed to growing with more than a healthy ego.  You can’t blame them for that, in our tortured analysis. We don’t mean a puffed-up, stuck-up, full-of- yourself kind of personality, but a overly well-structured sense of self and of race.    

They are brought up with the notion that their freedoms and ways of life were purchased by the blood of patriots (as with most cultures) and they see that the liberal democracy that is the backbone of most of governments is the result of such historical sacrifice.   

They are told from toddlerhood that theirs is the greatest country (or culture) on earth, and indeed, as they marvel at the dimensions and grandness of the fat of their land, what could be bigger, or better?  Mass media and cultural references not just in their land but worldwide all but shout out the fact that the white-dominated and white-supported culture, values, religions and way of life are superior, and truly in many ways they are.   

Indeed, how often have we heard the phrase/s (in its infinite variations) I / we thank God for allowing me / us to be born in the best possible place on earth to be, God’s You – nited States of Ay-merica, Amen?  And many times, how hard has it been to argue with this breathtaking logic?  

But the important thing is that this is reinforced in the child’s mind in many many ways, well until adulthood.  In short, white children are told many of the same things Asian and other non-white children are told, but they are given the added physical evidence of their education.   In contrast, many Asian children are taught to be respectful, deferential and sometimes almost unquestioning to their elders and those in authority; down the generations the sanctity of family and the hierarchy of values dies hard; for  most families God — whichever religion you subscribe to — country and family might as well be the cornerstones by which lives are lived.  

In other words, more often than not, in the majority of the world outside the Americas and Europe, the “self” as an independent entity is subsumed or worse, absorbed by omnipotent / infallible social institutions which, later in life, turn out to be not so omnipotent / infallible at all.  In the meantime, the “self” has gone under, submerged and most likely diminished for the collective good.  

We’re not saying this doesn’t happen in the first world, where values continue to be valued, nor are we saying that Asian traditionalism has not begun to be crowded out by humanist, personalistic values.  Just that it’s easier to understand the White Man when seen against how he grows up and how he is educated.  Very simplistic for sure, but worth thinking about.  

We hasten to add that children in many, many cultures are brought up with the same nationalism, respect for history, etc.  But First World kids are given reinforcement,  many times over, beyond what they read in textbooks and hear from teachers.  

Can we blame the Caucasian youth for feeling that the world is his for the taking?  

We almost hate to bring this up relatedly, but in this day and age, when you have media reporting things like the pregnant Muslim woman stabbed to death at a Germany  courtroom in an obviously hate-related incident, and a Virginia justice of the peace refusing to participate in an inter-racial marriage, you gotta think, have we gone forward or backward in the goal towards a UCB world?                     

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Last Na Po To. We chanced to catch Connector of The World, a regular CNN mini-segment devoted to people who by their talents and energies are able to connect peoples all over the world.  That day’s Connector was one of YoungShi’s fave authors, Paulo Coelho, whose great work has been translated in a record 63 languages and has been reproduced in around 100 million books.  But that’s not what we found remarkable and memorable, watching his short Q & A. First of all, we expected, based on reading The Alchemist, an abstract, swami-like philosophizer.  He actually looked like a sharp, well-dressed, worldwise Latino CEO, which is probably what he is now, with all his worldly and unworldly success.  Even more surprising was one of his answers, particularly to the question What would you tell mothers is the most important lesson they can give their kids? (We’re paraphrasing here.)  He said : Teach your kids to keep alive the spirit of rebellion, and to be not so politically correct all the time.  With all its implications and subtexts, we leave it here . . .

Thanks for sharing your time and thanks for the memories.

YLB NOel  

* Son of Heaven – A former honorific for the Emperor of China.