A Pinoy demystifies All Blacks Magic & the 2011 Rugby World Cup

[ Note from Noel : Above is how the All Blacks start every international match, called a “test”.  It’s borrowed from the Maori, the indigenous population of NZ, and the dance is called a “haka”.  It’s psychologically supposed to be very effective, and the opponents are NOT allowed to ignore it, or even turn away. Belated happy birthday to kabatch Dr Peggy Ting!  This blog is dedicated to an Aussie-Pinoy we did a stint at the Philippine Collegian with, Mr Raul Zamuco!  See you in 4 years bro! . PS : Thanks to a new friend, AJ Villarante for pointing out a glaring error ! Daghan salamat bro! ]

I HAVEN’T timed it down to the exact decimal second, but since Sunday, every daily news broadcast starts with at least five minutes of All Blacks news.  Not rugby news, which is suffocating enough, not World Cup rugby news, which is understandable, given that NZ just finished hosting more than a month’s worth of RWC matches, but All Blacks news, from how each member reached the peak of his career, to how each All Blacks game brought them to the finals, to how the finals reached its expected end, in a most unexpected manner.

Three victory parades will be held for the Rugby World Cup champion All Blacks.  Auckland on Monday, naturally (where the finals was won), Christchurch on Tuesday, which because of the twin earthquakes missed its chance to host World cup matches, and Wellington Wednesday, where your accidental migrant currently resides.

Within this whirlwind of emotion, intensity and success, it’s easy to get caught up in New Zealand’s living dream of winning the Rugby World Cup, 24 years in the making.  But for a Pinoy like us, it’s more awkward than anything.

Appreciating a game like rugby does not come easily to a typical Pinoy.  For one thing, close-contact, high-trauma team sports is not exactly popular to a culture more obsessed with basketball, billiards and boxing, the three B’s of both participation and spectator sports in the Islands.  I won’t be making any new friends among kabayan and kakosa , but famously being pikon or poor sports is a trait many Pinoys are known for , and the game of rugby is definitely not for the pikon.  Knee trips and sharp elbows in basketball seem positively kid gloves in comparison to bone-crushing body blocks, head butts and occasional eye-gouging (think Richie McC & Thierry Dusautoir) that rarely elicit more than the cursory groans and grunts from rugby players.  As regards physicality and roughness, the game resembles closely its American counterpart, NFL football, but to this accidental migrant the game of rugby seems a bit more visceral ( no visible body armor or helmets), bloody and relentlessly cruel to bone, muscle and ligament.

But back to the high drama surrounding All Blacks and their recent conquest, the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC).  To grasp the drama of their recent RWC success is to know the misses, near-hits and failures that NZ rugby has suffered.

For a sports tradition where anything less than being the very best is unacceptable, each of the All Blacks selections the last 24 years ( after the first and only RWC won by NZ ) has fallen short of the ultimate goal. There have been spotless performances in regional tournaments (Tri-Nations, Bledisloe Cups), perfect records on European tours (vs. powerhouses England, Ireland and Wales) and unblemished success versus all comers, but in the prize that mattered most, the All Blacks have been found wanting since 1987.

The nearest analogy I can come up with off the top of my head is Phil Mickelson, who for years endured the tag “best player never to have won a major” (0-46 before the 2004 Masters), NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, who ended his stellar career after 16 seasons without once winning an NBA title, and the Boston Red Sox of Major League baseball, who waited 86 years between 1918 and 2004 before winning another World Series.  You have to admit though that New Zealand would not want to be part of this tradition of futility.

But make no mistake about it, the undisputed most popular and powerful team in rugby prior to last week hadn’t won rugby’s highest honor since Ronald Reagan was President.

In a country where rugby is without exaggeration almost a religion, winning the Rugby World Cup was no less than the Ark of the Covenant returning to Israel, the Balangiga Bells returning to Eastern Samar, or Odysseus finally returning to Ithaca.  Nothing less than a homecoming, although the outcome remained in doubt until the final moments of the final game of the tournament.

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After 24 years, the nation’s post-RWC  euphoria was equal parts happiness and relief, relief that surprise finalist France didn’t pull off an unthinkable upset after all the talk of being unworthy finals opponents to the All Blacks.

Caught up as I inevitably became in the maelstrom of rugby fever, my housemates didn’t share my newfound interest.  Kuya Flatmate had loads and loads of OFWs, relatives and long lost loves to chat with, Panganay was constantly preoccupied with his hip-hop routine, and esposa hermosa would rather catch up with much needed sleep.

Onwards from the quarterfinals I had no choice but to follow, by my solitary self, the oval ball stalwarts in their quest to become the best in the rugby world, for at least the next four years when the next RWC is contested.

It wasn’t by any means an easy trip to the finals, as the All Blacks outlasted upset conscious Argentina, blitzed archrival Australia and beat 2007 nemesis France by one solitary point, equivalent to less than a free throw in basketball.

On the team’s broad shoulders rode the hopes and dreams of the “Stadium of Four Million,” the slogan of the NZ home crowd, and though they agonized injury after excruciating injury, they did not falter.

Bucking two major earthquakes in Christchurch (September 2010 and February 2011), the worst mining disaster in years (November 2010), and the all-time worst environmental disaster early this month, and now a humongous natural gas/energy crisis just early this week (losses of NZ$40 million a day), the RWC triumph is certainly a bright light in the darkness of the last 18 months.  Moreover, the Pinoy in me couldn’t help but compare our country with this tiny nation (with less than half the population of Metro Manila) used to punching above its weight (like Manny P), used to bullying, and used to licking its wounds inflicted by overbearing giants.  And emerging stronger than ever.

Pinoys could do a lot worse than internalizing the Rugby World Cup lessons from a similarly sized, newly crowned Kiwis.  Mabuhay All Blacks and Mabuhay Kiwis and Kinoys!

Thanks for reading !

Angry Birds & A Pixellated Pinoy Sea Captain : Early Xmas wishes

As of last count, 1100 birds have been found dead, but many more have sunk to the bottom of the sea, and we'll never know how much have perished. There were pictures markedly worse than this one, enough to drive you to tears. Thanks & acknowledgment to Dominion Post / stuff.co.nz for the photo.

[Note from Noel : Not angry actually but dead, and those who are really angry are the birds left behind, and unable to propagate rapidly diminishing species. Belated happy birthdays to Carol Ng Sy , Cherry Ong, Robin Tan (11th October) and Penny Rose Tan ( 14th ), now let’s brace ourselves for NZ‘s biggest rugby match in eight years tomorrow, All Blacks vs Wallabies ! Go go go ! ]

Dear kabatch, kabayan, brods, officemates, iskolar ng bayan, Huttmates and friends :

BEHOLDING Man and the dilemma of this plane of existence, there seem to be very few absolutes in a sea of relatives.  The purest good may sometimes be poison in unlimited amounts, for example.  Or the tics and tackiness of even the most satanic dictators can sometimes provide quirky (if a bit too entertaining) distraction from the monotony of daily life.

Which is why it’s quite unusual to see something as absolutely and unequivocally awful as an oil spill, particularly one in a pristinely preserved idyll like New Zealand.  There is no upside or pogi points to be philosophized about it.  It is despicably, horribly and unqualifiedly bad for all concerned, and it tends to stay around even longer than is expected, which is believe me, long enough.

Please excuse the uncharacteristically blunt language. By nature, I try to be PC, diplomatically pleasing all around and all that, but there is simply nothing the spin doctors can do about this debacle.

An additional thorn on our side is that one of the principal actors in this tragedy is a countryman and there is no way (not that we want to) we can deny that.

The captain of the Rena, granted name suppression but not back home. Thanks to the Dominion Post for the picture.

But two things : this isn’t a race thing, any more than a plane crash piloted by two Caucasians isn’t a white issue, as many Kiwis have pointed out.  Notwithstanding the well-considered prudence of the judge granting name suppression against the Pinoy ship captain in court two days ago, the danger to him and his crew was probably overstated.

And this is the second thing : efforts of Kiwis now are not focused on the blame game but on cleaning up beaches, saving wildlife and preserving what’s left of the Bay of Plenty, which is one of the most immaculately beautiful showcases of nature in this part of the world.  Having said that, I humbly present seven early Christmas wishes in light of recent events.  The 7 represent each of the weeks before December and Christmas season , which we all need to remind ourselves that in the light of bleakest tragedy, Jesus Christ is there to give us grace and hope :

The last 72 hours, the ship has been listing in various directions. Strong winds previously feared to have pushed the Rena to a doomsday position have actually helped right itself from a previously precarious state. Thanks to Dominion Post / NZ Herald for the photos.

I wish that the endangered species further placed in peril by the oil slick will find pockets of surviving members of the same species elsewhere in New Zealand.  At least three to five species of the birds affected by the Rena oil slick number less than 2000, meaning they were already in trouble before it happened.  But there is precedent for finding the same species in isolated areas of the country, and for the sake of continued biodiversity and preservation of precious wildlife, I hope this happens shortly after the cleanup, or even during such event.

I wish the cleanup volunteers, despite the many discomforts, continue to perform their heroic tasks.  This might be the only country where, out of pure community spirit and do-goodness, you want to clean up your beach but are prevented from doing so.  There are now actually more volunteers than official cleaners of the debris and oily sludge washing up on the 22 kilometers of beach, but because they are not properly trained and the Government doesn’t need to expose itself to any more liability, are carefully selecting who can volunteer to do for free, pardon the French, a totally shitty job.  Now how outrageous is that ???  Anyway, I hope the volunteers don’t give up, cuz even if (and maybe because) my kabayan was partly responsible and I want to help, I would think twice about going out there, for obvious reasons.

I hope the winds cooperate and don’t make it too hard for both the salvage operation and the beach cleanup.  Strong winds, which are notorious all over NZ, are a bane to the oilslick operations in two ways : they make it more difficult to remove the oil, and they also endanger the position of the vessel stuck on the reef.  If Divine Intervention makes it possible for calm winds to prevail the next few days, it would mean a whole lot for everyone here.

I hope the Rena itself doesn’t crack like a rancid coconut, as this would be total catastrophe despite everything that’s happened.  It’s estimated that around 300 to 500 tons of the ship’s fuel (which serve as ballast as well) have seeped out of the hull after the vessel crashed against a shallow coral reef, and this has already incurred extensive damage to marine life.  But it’s nothing compared to what will happen if the balance of the 1700 ton fuel capacity empties into the Bay, which is a virtual certainty if the ship sinks.  The consequences are too dire, and in fact for me are unthinkable.  Fortunately it has not come to that yet, and everything ( I hope) is being done to forestall that.

I hope all the remaining containers teetering like carelessly connected Lego Blocks on a giant kid’s creation don’t fall off, and are salvaged in time to not cause any more damage.  Most of the 70 containers that have fallen off contain consumer and food items but one or two contain hazardous materials that will be extremely difficult to contain should it spill out to the water. This means the earlier the containers are retrieved and placed on other vessels, the better.

I hope New Zealand wins the Rugby World Cup semifinal against Australia tomorrow night, and against the Wales-France semifinal winner at the finals next week. God knows NZ needs the cheering up, after all the things that have happened the last 12 months, the twin Christchurch earthquakes that killed 182, the Pike River mine blast that killed 29 coal miners, and the thousands left homeless and vulnerable from all these events.

I hope, lastly that my mother who celebrated her birthday yesterday continues to enjoy good health and the love of family, who she has taken care of and loved back for so long.  I love you very much Mom !

Thanks for reading !


Why Didith Tayawa – Figuracion is my favorite Kinoy*

She will almost surely not be able to read this given Didith Tayawa – Figuracion‘s very hectic schedule for the next few weeks, but she already knows what we will put here : we know of no other Filipino in New Zealand who, with his/her own personal efforts, has done more to promote Filipino arts and culture.

With the rest of her co-members, Didith has funneled her creative energy through the aptly named Filipino Artists in New Zealand (FILINARTIZTS) and they have through sheer talent and force of effort outdone themselves in the Filipino Labour Weekend Reunion,  Philippine Independence Day celebrations, and hosted its own radio programme with Wellington Access Radio.

But deserving special mention is FILINARTIZTS’s participation as actors in the Ati-atihan Festival performances at the Festival of Carnivale, a multi-cultural showcase for visitors and locals alike coinciding with the Wellington schedule of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

We may be exaggerating a bit, but the moving force, vision, logistics not to mention funding for the latter event would be insufficient without Didith and the 101% love and effort she has put into it.

(The YouTube clip above is a sample of what FILINARTIZTS will do during the festival, but it will a little more elaborate  than this, I think.  Thanks and acknowledgment to “damarkez”, who produced the clip.)

The best part of all these is that she doesn’t seek any attention or recognition for all her good works, preferring to let our country and our people take all the benefits that emanate from the positive image that the Ati-atihan production will produce.

As if these weren’t enough, Didith is also a major actor behind the Philippines‘ participation in the Society of Southeast Asian communities (SSEAC), which promotes friendship and understanding between Southeast Asian people and migrant communities in New Zealand.  Among their activities has been the ASEAN Night Market held in Wellington recently, an event that presented the culinary talents of volunteers from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

We wish to emphasize that efforts from the other FILINARTIZTS members are no less awesome, but Didith, with the support of her devoted husband Clark, have been so impressive that we’ve found it particularly timely, with the ongoing Rugby World Cup, to recognize her achievements in our small corner.

Other kabayan may be equally as committed or do as much for Filipino arts and culture in the future, but for now no Pinoy or Pinay shines brighter than her in making all of us in NZ proud of our culture.  We would do well to take off our salakot for her, and say kabayan, maraming salamat po.

And that is why she is our favorite Kinoy.


*Kinoy is a contraction for Kiwi-Pinoy, a non-racial term for Pinoys who live, permanently or otherwise, in New Zealand.”

Things 2 Do B4 I Die ( If I’m Mayan)

Waiting for the book Harry Potter and the Deat...

Image via Wikipedia

Dear kabatch, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates and friends :

HAVEN’T seen the movie, but 2012 is supposed to be when the Mayan calendar reaches its last page, life as we know it exceeds its shelf life, and the entire planet hits the proverbial fan.

Now, such a calendar, if it actually exists, hasn’t been used in a couple of thousand years, and apocalyptic scenarios have been formulated and discarded since depressed evangelists, existence-obsessed philosophers and henpecked husbands came into being.

 But you can’t be too sure, right? You never know if the universe will just uproot itself from its cosmic foundations, or just hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete after a bad hair day.

On the galactic scale, we’re about as infinitesimal as bacteria on the head of a lice on a hair of a carabao, and we’re just hanging along for the ride. Whatever happens, happens, and there’s not much we can do about it. Which is why before our atoms and molecules split into smithereens or our health and well-being is made redundant, there are admittedly a few things we’d like to do or seen done.

 These things or deeds aren’t so much goals as they are mileposts to be reached, to bring to a satisfying conclusion the crazy string of dreams, failures and wild imaginings that have so far made up my so-called life.  If at this point in time, we are to call it a day and zoom off into the next plane of existence, here are what we would have wanted done :

Enjoy Part 2 of HP7 : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and/or LOTR’s The Hobbit. This sounds a bit frivolous, especially for someone our age, but when you think about it, both franchises have been a big part of our lives especially in the last decade or so.

During our sad times, the great story line, superb acting and of course, crisp writing made us forget our mundane existence and spurred us to better things. Converting into screen magic the awesomeness of fantasy novels is sometimes a tired formula, but the success of these two movies is practically a sure thing ( knock knock ), and watching them would give us enormous satisfaction that we haven’t had since, well, watching HP7 Part 1 and Lord of the Rings : Return of the King.

Acquire Lolo NOel status without anakis sacrificing career and happiness. Biologically you celebrate being a citizen of God’s Earth twice over : first when produce offspring, and second when the latter produce their own, making you directly and indirectly responsible for two generations. Have you ever heard of a grandparent not proud of his/her grandchildren, unwilling to play the clown for the children’s party, or distribute cash or favors they might have hesitated giving to the earlier generation?

A bit unfair to the kids, but it’s like a crowning achievement, a feather on the cap of every person who participated in giving life to another. Now, we’re not applying any pressure on our brood of three, one of which has finished school and is ready for work, but it would be nice to see how our apo would turn out, in our lifetimes and while we can play with them.

Now, if only Panganay could start a family as soon as he gets a nice job . . .

Witness NZ win the 2011 Rugby World Cup. We’re not the most rabid rugby fan, nor are we a full-fledged KiNoy ( Kiwi Pinoy) yet, but rugby is arguably the preeminent sport here, and the love and unqualified support for the NZ rugby team, known as the powerful All Blacks, is infectious.

Every rugby test (that’s what matches are called), every new player selected, and every All-Black injury are all national media events, and the buildup to the World Cup, namely the Tri-Nations Cup, the exhibition matches, and the European Tour, have all but cemented the thinking that New Zealand will bag the RWC, something that hasn’t happened since 1987.

It will either be a huge countrywide celebration or a national day of mourning after the tournament, and I’m hoping the positive mood in case of a win will turn the tide in my favor, should I apply for permanent residency (wink, wink). Go All Blacks !

Tell them like it is. We got this from Charlie Sheen in a Two And A Half Men episode, certainly not the best place to get role models, but for A, every girl we made misrepresentations to and/or contemplated less than honorable intentions on, B, for every undeclared crush we allowed to pass us by, and C, for every rejection / basted we received, we want to revisit the female in question and declare the following :

For Category A : I was young, I was a jerk, and half the things I said I was just making up as I went along and didn’t even know if they made sense, I wasn’t aware of the consequences of what I did or said, and if I knew such would hurt anyone, least of all you, I would have thought twice.

For Category B : All the time you were there, I was hopelessly in love (or lust) with you, just didn’t have the guts to tell you so, but years and years later, I can now just laugh about it ( really? ) and so just to set the record straight and so you’ll know what could’ve been, had I been a little more confident, I had this humongous crush on you, so there.

For Category C : So you think I could never be good enough for you, and your time was better spent waiting for Mr Right or anyone better than me? I’d like to thank you for that, it kept my feet firmly on the ground and taught me to focus my energies on the reachable and the realistic.

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In some way I hope that if the Apocalypse doesn’t materialize, the last good deed will pay itself forward and in a perfect world, lessen somewhat the chances of  daughter Ganda getting similar treatment from a guy like me, twenty years my junior.

That’s my bucket list, for sure there are a lot of things I want to do before I die or if the world goes poof ! but it’s a good start, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading !