a Pinoy appreciates Dad on father’s day

Dad is the handsome guy in red next to Ganda. Behind them are Tito George (Apostol), his wife Tita Amy, forever pretty Tita Dely (Imperial), Renato (Jhun) Montenegro Jr carrying daughter, his mom Ernani B Montenegro, Tita Beth (Javier) and Bunso.

[ Note : Please indulge a blog we wrote a few years ago on our high school Yahoo!group, condolences to the family of the late Asuncion C Sy – Ang, mom of our dear kabatch and friend Ms Pilar Ang – Si.  Happy father’s day to all ! ]

MY EARLIEST recollections about Dad are quite ancient.  Very early in the morning, hardly out of diapers, he would bring me to the Luneta (Manila‘s biggest public park) to enjoy the sea air from Manila Bay.  I was particularly enthusiastic about these trips as I would be bundled up together with my walker, and toughen up my toddler’s gait under his benevolent eye. This was probably 1965 or 1966.

Years later, on rapidly microwaving Sunday dawns just before the 1980s, Dad and I would be in the same venue, jogging around the block right in front of the Luneta Grandstand (measured by him to be 1.2 kms in circumference) but not before I went through the drill of being woken up by marathon crazy Dad, peeling off me my bedcover, pillow and blanket and sprinkling water till I had no choice but to get up.

Still a few years later, on sunny weekday afternoons, to the same Luneta breakwaters, Dad would bring little Panganay, only his second grandchild, for kiddie boat rides, viewing nearby Cultural Center and Corregidor Island in the distance.

For a pre-postmodern dad such as mine, there was no such thing as quality time.  He had nothing BUT time, when it came to me, and probably the same thing was true with my other siblings.  You just didn’t realize it till you were all grown up, and your kids think nothing of asking the same of you.

As fathers, though our bond with our kids may not be as strong as the mother-child relationship, it is equally emotional and nearly as dramatic.

We are there initally to lend mothers a helping  hand in the raising and nurturing, but in equal parts we educate, inspire and guide our children into becoming the human beings the world expects them to be.

Without a doubt we take a back seat to moms in the development of our young, but by being the best that we can be, we stand tall as models when the next generation looks for people to emulate.

By being the first people they are exposed to, we can do no less. I can only think of a few examples.

The picture of the affable, authoritative yet approachable (not authoritarian) dad belongs to my high school classmate and now Dr Evelyn V’s dad, who I addressed as Mr Lee. Bumming rides with them , I would often see him in the car ride home from school. I would hear him crack jokes with his kids, ask them about school, and sometimes ask me about my own dad, who he got acquainted with in the 1950s. Mr Lee no longer fit the remote, stern profile most Chinese Filipino dads of the 60s and 70s assumed, and could easily bond with his kids.  I liked him for that.

I had less encounters with another high school contemporary Dennis (Sy)’s dad, and will probably not do him justice.  If memory serves, he was a soccer enthusiast, and supported his two sons’ many interests, which probably inspired them to pursue varied sports and music.

The chummiest Dad I can remember though is bosom buddy Raymond (Ong)’s, who would often pause from his work to strike up a conversation with me whenever I chanced to visit their Ermita store, as if I were a long-lost customer. He exuded a warmth that would disarm the gruffest exterior, and it would be a legacy to all his sons.

Almost gods in our eyes, we later discover, sometimes sadly, that they are as human as we are, prone to the same failings and temptations.

We can only strive to do as well as they did, and hope that in their eyes we do not fail too miserably.

Thanks for everything Dad, and Happy Father’s Day !

Related articles

Kiwi rules / Asian hues / Pinoy smiles 4 ur kabayan weekend jogger

even in CartoonLand, running's the thing to do.

IF DAD never did anything again for me for the rest of my life (and he did lots more) I would still have been grateful if only for the fact that he imbedded in me the itch to run for exercise, run for solace, run to destress, and to run for everything else.  I don’t have completely positive memories of running, sometimes he woke me up on early Sunday mornings and like everyone else, I wanted to sleep in, but overall, the experience of galloping wild through nature like a thoroughbred, relying on your legs to get anywhere, everywhere and the pheromones of releasing so much potential energy was something few memories could match.

Jogging (that was what running was called) from the Paco family home to Cultural Center every radiant Sunday at the crack of dawn left such a lasting imprint on my DNA that although I would all but consign physical activity to the dustbin of history for half a decade or so, when I hit the three-oh, four-oh, and sometimes even in between I would remember that I had a surplus of days of euphoria whenever I made running a weekend habit, and just carry on from where I stopped.

By the by, I can’t stress this enough : as long as you don’t have a history of heart and cardiovascular illness and you have checked with your doctor beforehand, running is one of the easiest forms of exercise to take up, and there’s no pressure whatsoever to start at a pace you’re not comfy with.  In fact, if you want to start with a brisk walk just to go easy on your tootsies and marshmallowy heels, so much the better.   The only equipment you’ll need are a sturdy pair of cross-trainers (running shoes not essential), shorts or jogging pants, and a T-shirt, preferably one that sez something silly like kiss the jogger, it’s good for your health. 🙂

Back to my running revival.  The latest episode had its special feature : the air I heaved and gasped for was pure as the polar blasts from the nearby South Pole, the only problem being that the same air was as cold.  Other than that, as long as I remembered the customs of the place, didn’t call too much attention to myself, and stayed polite and courteous, I usually enjoyed myself.

This is what a typical Kiwi mom trying to combine exercise and taking her baby out for a walk, looks like.

My first focus of observation was the hosts, of course, the hospitable Kiwis and Maoris.  Like driving, runners and walkers tended to stay on the left side of the footpath, which is the logical thing to do.  For us outsiders it took a little getting used-to, but it was alright after a while.  As they pretty much value their privacy and want to enjoy their quiet time either running or walking their dog, taking out their baby or spouse / partner on a stroll, or anything that involves ambulant distraction, acknowledging them via a nod or small smile is the standard way of greeting. 

This is actually good for me, because I am usually huffing and puffing, trying to look cool while going 150 beats a minute, and maintaining the connection between my cellphone radio and my chipipay earphones that could unravel anytime.  So, the first two rules with the locals : Stay on the left side, keep the nods short and the smiles sweet.  After that, you just make up as you go along.

The Asian wayfarers are different.  Mainland Chinese septuagenarians in track suits fit as kung fu masters, Southeast Asians picking up or bringing their grandkids to school, and South Asian couples walking to work, not very many hogging the footpath as runners but friendly just the same.

getting ready for the Bombay-to-Calcutta challenge 🙂 thanks and ackowledgment to desinuts.com

It might just be a coincidence, but Asians tend to be a tad more colorful in their garb, whatever the age, region or religious persuasion.  As opposed to locals who are more conservative in their attire, and prefer black probably to hide unflattering body contours (I’m just guessing), Asians are naturally more flamboyant, don’t seem to care about color coordination and clash colors any time they fancy. 

Because of the the above and my natural affiliations, I end up being a little more friendly when it’s an Asian I encounter, although it’s not my intention.  I correctly guess that smiles are more easily returned and waves acknowledged, and bottom line it’s probably an it- takes-an-outsider-to-know-an-outsider type of thing, but it could just be me.

I reserve my best close-up smiles for Pinoys who’re running to the grocery, running to the Salvation Army store, or just running period that I occasionally encounter during the weekend.  Kabayan aren’t very big on running, because there’s so much to do on weekends, like attend Pinoy parties, go to Mass, do your groceries, and catch up on much-needed sleep, so when you do see someone of the kayumanggi persuasion who’s chattering with their companion with the familiar vowels, sibilants and plosives, I not only make a full stop, but make sure I’m heard when I say kumusta kabayan?  More often than not I get an instant reaction, especially with my broad smile and red-white-and-blue tee, if I’m wearing it.

It's not this beautiful, but a lot of the running lanes here look like this.

Tipping my cap off to the elderly ladies (especially the older ones), taking time to smile and ask about babies in their prams, shouting ni hao, shenti zemeyang to the Mainlanders; the little things don’t take too much effort, but they make the difference when you’re greasing the joints, flushing the pipes and dusting off the cranial cobwebs on Godzone’s brilliantly beautiful Sunday morning.  As a weekend Pinoy runner, it doesn’t get much better than this !

Thanks for reading !

Why Gladys Grace Stephens is my favorite Kinoy*

kabayan Gladys receiving the Hamilton Civic Award from Mayor Bob Simcock in Dec 2009

[ Note : Grateful acknowledgment and profuse thanks to kabayan Ms Sheila Mariano, publisher-editor of the Filipino Migrant News for information and photo of the subject of this blog.  Thanks as well to the Hamilton City Council for allowing us to quote liberally from their report . ]

TWENTY-THREE YEARS is a lot of time for many of us to build up a lifetime’s worth of achievements worthy of emulation among friends, peers and loved ones.

You could raise a family, start a career, grow a business, or here’s my favorite, open up a collection of your favorite things.  Our favorite Kinoy could’ve done any of that, and be like you and me, and stay happy, normal and predictable as 30,000-plus other Kinoys in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

But Gladys Grace Stephens didn’t do happy, normal or predictable.  She chose to make a difference in her community, without so much as calling the least attention to herself, which is why outside the City of Hamilton, most members of the Filipino community don’t know much about her.

Even when I asked her about what she was most proud of especially after being awarded the Queen’s Service Medal at New Zealand’s national yearend awards, she answered simply : serving as a member of the Waikato Filipino Association and serving as Justice of the Peace in her own community in Hamilton.

In truth, she has done a little more than that.  Since the early 1990s, according to the Filipino Migrant News, she has “given voluntary service to refugee and migrant settlers in Hamilton.”

No less than the Hamilton City Council itself noted that Gladys went beyond that, reporting as early as 2009 that her “many years of voluntary service have been carried out wholeheartedly, enhancing the wellbeing of many people and organizations in Hamilton,” when she was selected as one of 13 worthy recipients to receive the Hamilton Civic Awards for 2009.

You’d never hear it from her, but even before this, she was already recognized the year before in 2008, when she received a prestigious Certificate of Appreciation from the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils “in recognition of her valuable contribution to ethnic communities of the Waikato, an indication of how much her work has affected people in the wider community.”

Frankly, others would’ve gone ahead and trumpeted their awards and achievements, but strangely, we would never have heard about Gladys, least of all from herself, had she not been given one of the highest recognitions by the New Zealand government.

Closer to home, every time the Waikato Filipino Association in Hamilton sends a delegation to participate in cultural or sports events like the Migrant Expo in Auckland or Wellington, Gladys is the first to volunteer to man the stalls or chaperone the youth groups, despite her senior role.  She is always the first to arrive, last to leave, and always, always the first to raise her hand to do the dirty work.

And incredibly, as if these feathers on her cap weren’t enough, she has since 2002 taken a lead volunteer role as Events and Programme manager for Shama Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre Trust, serving to this day as a Trustee on the Shama Board.

She has even found time to serve as a Justice of the Peace, “appropriate for her strong desire to serve her community” according to the awards report of the Hamilton City Council.   On top of everything, she has since 2005 “directed and developed School Holiday programmes (in Hamilton) for children.”  For those children who are so inclined, Gladys has for the last 10 years helped run an 8-week Tagalog course for children. Between 8-14 children attend the course, which is held once a week on Sundays.  Wouldn’t you be touched by that, kabayan?

I think we could do a lot worse than holding Gladys up as a kabayan we can all be proud of.

Please join me dear reader in congratulating our dear Gladys, who is certainly my Favorite Kinoy !  Mabuhay ka kabayan!

Thanks for reading !


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

Everyday is Count-Your-Blessings Day

[Sigh, another stream of consciousness rant.  Thanks for all the kind (and less kind) comments, the well-wishers, Christmas greeters, and if ever I’ve been able to give you reason to take a deep breath, forget the day’s troubles, and smile, it will have been worth doing this for me.  Merry Christmas! ]

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

EVERY DAY IS COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS DAY.  Apart from other occasions, there is no set time for doing this, and there are practical reasons for such : (1) you gain blessings everyday and therefore it seems logical, NOT superstitious, for doing it.  Of course, you may lose blessings as well, but that’s besides the point. (2) for those who believe in positive energy and related stuff, if you affirm receipt of blessings and thank a Higher Power for them (whatever your faith, and whether or not you have a faith, you’ve gotta believe in a force in the Universe other than yours, responsible at the very least for Intelligent Design, not necessarily personally interested in you, but that’s for another conversation OK?), chances are, positive acts and events beget ditto, and while I’m not recommending lying supine under the bayabas tree, recognizing blessings is sometimes its own blessing.  (3) and last, you never know what will happen tomorrow, this afternoon, or even an hour from now.  You may lose that all-important opportunity to acknowledge, even if only for yourself, that you’ve been one lucky person most of your life.  Enough said :

I’m thankful that no disaster has personally rocked my world.  The most clueless response I can think of whenever I come across news of a major disaster like the one that visited Mindanao last Sunday is, omg how horrible, but that could never happen to me could it???  Let’s admit it : our breathtaking naivete, smug conviction that awfully bad things happen only to other people, and the law of averages all combine to tell us that while we can condole and sympathize with the unlucky ones, we can safely reassure ourselves that we are somehow immune from such misfortune.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Part of the tragedy last Sunday was that typhoons hardly ever visit Northern Mindanao, but it happened.  High tide, the lack of absorption from the soil, the fact that the flash floods occurred late at night, all point to the mentality that a catastrophe of such magnitude was furthest from the minds of leaders and those responsible for preparing for it.  Even in Christchurch, New Zealand, where government and the Kiwi culture are known for disaster-preparedness and safety consciousness, and where a previous earthquake was enough warning, no one could’ve imagined the death and destruction that visited one of the worlds’s most beautiful cities last February.  Among many culprits?  “It can happen, but we have time to prepare.”  Returning to my own little world, I know that disaster can make its personal mark on me anytime, and I’m just grateful it hasn’t.

I’m grateful I have a job. Period.  No complaints about it being overseas (and away from kids) and the wage rate (not high but not too low, either).  The reason being that so many people are unemployed, underemployed, employed in shabby circumstances, exploited, exposed to hazardous conditions and substances, or worse, hate their job.  The hours are not-so-great, there is some manual labor involved, some tasks are tedious and boring, but I could do a lot worse.  I can do tedious and boring, especially after a week of  helping pack 20-kg flour bags when the mill went into slowdown early December and Bisor and moi packed the equivalent of 18 tons (bag by bag of course) into paper bags one damp and dreary night.  I know a lot of people, especially locals, would kill for a job like mine, where the pay is steady and the company is stable.  That only makes me more grateful, and glad that I can get along with colleagues and superiors.The fact that my work visa status gives me even less employment prospects (I can only work for the employer stated in the visa) makes me even luckier as (for now) they’re not slave-drivers, communicate with the union as often as time allows, and try not to take advantage of migrant workers like me.

I am grateful that I’m in reasonably good health.  Once a week or thereabouts, I wake up with a gout attack (or whatever it’s called) caused by more than a glass of red wine, or a little too much red meat in my lunch or dinner, a dip in temperature of more than a couple of degrees.  All of those are avoidable, so I have only myself to blame.  An ophthalmologist -friend (Atty Fe Makalinao, thank you) tells me that I, along with a few billion other middle agers in denial, suffer from presbyopia, which is a type of nearsightedness caused by age.  This is on top of regular myopia and astigmatism, but just like my job, I could do worse.  I have early onset creaky knees, aggravated most probably by my insistence on running around the block on warm days, early onset narcolepsy ( I wait up for my favorite shows only to start snoring even before the same is half over ), and endure high blood sugar and high LDL cholesterol, understandable given the wild excess of my youth.  Otherwise, I’m in relatively good health and have maintained my weight and fitness, as long as I don’t abuse my body’s longevity, durability and forebearance.  I need to add that probably 90% of the maintenance and upkeep, especially on the cosmetic side, I owe to esposa hermosa, who has done her best to update my appearance for the 21st century and hopefully the succeeding decades.  For this I am doubly grateful ! 🙂

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

You believe me now when I say I’ve so many things to be thankful for?  By no means is this list exhaustive, there are probably a million other blessings I must one day record, acknowledge and pay forward.  In this season of thanksgiving, giving thanks is only half the equation, and acquires more meaning when you pass it on (the blessing) to someone else, especially someone who needs it badly and who least expects it.

Maligayang Pasko my friend, thank you for your readership, and a blessed Christmas to you and your family!


Valedictory Post-Its for Ganda

Worrying about her exams, no doubt

[Note from Noel : Coincidence of coincidences, both Ganda and Bunso’s schools copped the NCAA and UAAP crowns this season, now how lucky is that?  Happy birthdays to Atty Edlyn Verzola, Cathy Gruba and Pinky Pineda (all on 2nd Nov), Dexter Lim (4th Nov), Atty Vicky Suarez (5th Nov) and Tess Reyes (6th Nov).  Happy Halloween and undas to all ! ]

Dearest Ganda :

THE NIGHT (day) before the start of night shift week (11.00 pm to 7.00 am), I can never trick my body into turning in early.  It’s Sunday afternoon, and not only did I turn in late last night, I also slept in Sunday morning.  In short, including the weekend things you have to do, the overactive environment (everybody else is outside basking if the sun is shining) and the preparation for the long week ahead, it’s the worst time to try to sleep.  In fact even before going to bed I’ve already given up getting the usual eight to nine hours of winks; I already I’ll spend at least half an hour in broad daylight tossing and turning.

The silver lining is writing you is the best way to while away the displaced insomnia.

I’m sorry we got cut off the last chat, the old PC can only go so far before it realizes it’s not supposed to be working anymore, at least not while its plate is full running Yahoo!, Facebook, WordPress and Multiply simultaneously.  All it’s good for now is the in-house solitaire called FreeCell, composing e-mails to Immigration NZ that I need to print anyway, and sending e-mails to the money transfer lady who always gives us a generous NZ$-PP rate, I think she and Tita H come from the same region.  (They usually chatter unintelligibly on the phone when I’m near, baka praning lang ako.)

I know it’s a bit early and you’re as superstitious as anyone, but it’s a good time as any for a pat on the back, you’ve turned the last corner and are heading for the homestretch.  Almost on your own and with the minimum guidance from either me or your mom, you’ve stuck by your convictions, chosen your own career path, and have hurdled the hardest subjects on your way to, may I say it? Graduation.  Wow. 🙂

I know you’ve insisted on what you wanted to do, because your mom wanted you to major in something else.  Whether you’ve made the right decision, only you can tell now, might as well stick with it till the bitter end.  I know you’ve gotten over the hump of the academic grind, because on your enrollment form I saw Quantitative Marketing, and another course title had Calculus or some dreadful sounding subject, did I not?  I know that although you still have at least one more semester of matriculation, you passed up a summer practicum so you could prepare for an overload of units this sem.  All told, you have done quite well for yourself.

I have the minimum benefit of hindsight, I continue to make mistakes along the way and far be it for me to tell you what to do after you have overachieved your way this far, but I would always be second-guessing myself if I didn’t at least try to give a father’s unsolicited advice to a graduating daughter, albeit one who is mature beyond her years :

Don’t be afraid to hook up with something less than your dream job.  Especially, if this is your first job.  You and I have heard of endless stories of people starting out full of fire and momentum for their first job, which they naively think will be their ideal job, and even more naively, for life.  We both know neither of this will turn out true, for an overwhelming majority of jobseekers.  The first danger is you will lose interest and momentum looking for that ideal first job, because unless you are a COO (child of the owner) or phenomenally precocious for your rookie status, you will not be considered for anything more than an entry-level position in whatever field of endeavor, particularly in the professions where cadet engineers and under-bar law grads are expected to fetch coffee and do scrub work for their superiors for at least a year.  Don’t worry about this, as you have time on your side.  The alternative is to wait and wait until time will have passed you by, while your contemporaries have moved on to the bigger world.

Don’t be afraid to take on a job with a wage/salary dramatically lower than your expectations.  This is true particularly on two counts : first, you will have the satisfaction of negotiating for better pay when you have proven yourself, and second, you are still learning the ropes and you are actually getting paid to educating yourself about the realities of your career.  Let me enlighten you further.  The staff at Tita H’s sushi place are filled almost exclusively by migrants like us.  One in particular worked quietly and took the worst hours and shifts without complaint.  No one knew that after a year or so, she and her husband would open a sushi place of their own.  She was actually learning everything about the business and was quite willing to do anything to acquaint herself with the ins and outs, the nuances of this particular niche of the food industry, and how much they would need to shell out to undertake a business just like the one she was working for.  The smart ones I guess are willing to work for free, if they can learn in the process.  The lesson for the rest of us here is if we are absorbing something important (like tips and tricks for getting ahead in our chosen bread and butter), and we’re getting paid for it, it’s not such a bad deal, no?

Don’t be afraid to use back doors, school connections, family relationships, and insider referrals to get to your job.  I know that the moralist in you takes a dim view of using anything other than merit to get hired.  Well guess what, my dear ? You can use networking to get ahead job-wise without compromising your ideals.  I concede that the proverb it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts is pretty Machiavellian but you can prove you’re worth being hired later.  Now, what’s important is just getting your foot in the door and getting a word in edge-wise.  Everyone else is fighting tooth and nail just to get an interview with the HR guru; all you’re doing is leveling the playing field.  Put it this way : if you just go with the flow and rely on a pretty face, perfect CV and outstanding references to get a coveted job ahead of hundreds, if not thousands of candidates with identical credentials, you might have a long wait.  And lastly…

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  This is not so much related to job hunting as with the real world after you’re hired.  There will always be people who will do things for you, to please you, and to get on your good side.  There is always a trade-off, or payback time.  Taken another way, it is usually a good rule of thumb that when something is too good to be true, it usually is.  Of course, when you anticipate that you rub each other’s backs, then there’s no real harm.  But when potential bosses, colleagues and work mates do more than the expected courtesies, then you have to step back and ask yourself why?  Take it in more than one sense since you are a young woman and your mother has probably told you all about men, the latter almost always carry a perennial agenda behind the visible one ; sometimes it’s the only one.

That’s it, for now.  You have already gotten this far and are aware of your gifts and shortcomings.  I’m so happy you have turned out as well as you have and no matter what happens to you before and after you graduate, I am already proud of you anak.

God bless you always, kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos.


PS. Please kiss and hug Bunso for me, and tell him to get enough rest always.