learn the natives’ language & you can do no wrong

IF MY eyes and ears could do a double-take, they would.  But you can only be totally surprised once, and everything else that follows is just confirmation.

Pasensya na sa punto ng Tagalog ko, Pilipina kasi ang asawa ko.  Matagal kami sa Pilipinas, pero hindi ko maalis ang punto ng Kiwi, said the Kiwi volunteer who delivered the aparador (closet) that we bought over the weekend from the Salvation Army store.

[ Sorry for the belated translation of the above : excuse my faux Tagalog accent, (I can speak Tagalog because) my wife is Filipina.  We stayed a while in your country, but I couldn’t do anything about the Kiwi accent, pretty good if you ask me. 🙂 ]

He didn’t stop there.  Not waiting for my reply, he said nung nabasa ko yung family name mo sa delivery list, alam ko nang Pinoy ka, pero di ako sigurado.  Pero ngayon sigurado na ako he grinned, and I just had to call my flatmate’s wife.

[ spontaneous translation again : when I came across your surname on the delivery list, I knew you were a Pinoy, but I wasn’t sure.  Now I am. How can you not be flattered by that? ]

Malou, kausapin mo sya, talo pa nya tayo sa Tagalog, and of course Mr Kiwi Volunteer proudly continued with his conversational Tagalog, which reminded us of back home as much as fishballs, kikiam and the slivers of meat we like to call tuhog-tuhog.

His facility in our mother tongue was brought about as much by an intention to settle long-term back home as his love for his wife, and everything about her, including culture, cuisine, and of course, language.

It certainly warms the heart to know that even as we Pinoys love to learn other languages, other races take the time to learn our own.

Then there are people who’ve taken a liking to singing Tagalog songs, like the one above.  It seems cute and entertaining, until you realize the time and effort spent by the artist to just learn the words, and then actually interpret the song in a way that is familiar and heart-warming.

The last example I have of connecting with people through their language is from our adopted country’s very own Hayley Westenra, a popular singer.  She took the time to learn just one song (there could be more) in her Taiwanese hosts’ Mandarin, and naturally brought the house down :

If you want to build instant rapport with the natives whenever you visit overseas, just try speaking, or even better, singing in their language.  You may stutter at first, but you’ll soon realize that, as long as you try, it doesn’t really matter to them.  I can almost hear them say : You had me at hello.

mga tala ng barat sa himpapawid (or notes on flying on the cheap)

AWAKE FOR 31 hours might be an equally dramatic title for this distracted blog but it wouldn’t be accurate, I caught snatches of sleep here and there throughout the maze.  But, just before I forget it, the biggest differences between points of origin and destination that I immediately noted: everything is back to the correct side, meaning you are always on the right side of the road, and look left before right while crossing said road; children can sell cigarettes, that’s probably the craziest thing, and you’re not asked for ID when you buy alcohol and cancer sticks.  Those struck me, but as usual they’re non sequitur and I’m getting ahead of myself.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and you never get something for nothing.  In return for a ridiculously cheap airplane ticket, you get aggravation and annoyance that ages you twice the normal rate.  I don’t know if that’s OK with you, you may probably be stressproof or young as a babe, and these don’t matter to you, but eventually it did to me, and I’m one of the (maybe the) cheapest persons I know.

Only a few things trump getting the juiciest bargain, and I just learned this recently : quality and uninterrupted rest, and the muck of insufferable boredom.  Because I’m an inconsistent traveller and haven’t adhered to any frequent flyer program, and because the budget pie often results in a sliver-thin slice for jetsetting, any chance to get flight bargains is grabbed in nanoseconds with no hesitation.  And the bargain I beheld online was too good to be true: for roughly the price of a business-class ticket (which I’ve never purchased), I could have two, countem two coach tickets, literally unbelievable!  Today however, I humbly stand before you to say it’s a price paid in both coin and aggravation.  Again, I get ahead of myself.

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

SuperBisor was taking us to the airport, and that definitely was one less thorn on our sides.  Checking in and waiting for the flight in Wellington was understandably the easiest and non-defining part of the trip: we were still fresh and excited to travel.

I didn’t realize that any laptops needed to be taken out of their bags and because we had two (esposa hermosa was bequeathing one to a younger bro), we held up the long line behind us on the metal detector conveyor while extracting said laptops from their sheaths.  That was the awkward highlight of our first leg.

Auckland however was an entirely different kettle of fish as regards stress.  To begin with, the City of Sails was the gateway outside NZ, and therefore the airlines strongly encouraged  (hint words for required) its passengers to show up at least 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time (earlier than domestic boardings), which was nearly impossible since we were arriving from Wellington barely one hour and forty minutes before the next leg.

That means between claiming our luggage, checking it and ourselves in, finding the boarding gate in the cavernous mall-cum-airport (seems that all airports look like malls nowadays), clearing immigration (as a guest worker like me, you want to look financially capable enough to leave and sane enough to be welcomed back, both excruciatingly difficult for me) and avoiding at boarding the aura of a drug mule, terrorist or conscript for white slavery, we had an eternity of 10 minutes.  How’s that for an instant prescription to prematurely gray your hair?

The Auckland connecting flight experience was like an unedited 30 minutes of The Amazing Race, and despite a fortuitous delay that stymied airline staff and frustrated passengers, we were still one of the last passengers to board.  Bags to chuck, boarding passes to read, jam into pockets, fish out again and jam into pockets again, corridors to lose ourselves in, horizontal escalators to hesitate using, and eventually overtaking, and finally repeating the cumbersome voiding-and-swallowing of laptops from and into bags, and we hadn’t even left Enzed yet.

Following was the exact opposite.  Eleven hours and change of doing nothing, and if you’ve ever come across Teddy Boy Locsin saying in a long flight, you eventually breathe in everyone else’s farts and exhalations, you knew it was olfactorily not a pleasant experience.  The Asian / Pinoy in me could not fathom the pay-as-you-use nature of everything : earphones (Aus$3) to understand the mindless movies airing; bottled water (A$4) just to avoid parched throat and chapped lips; muffins more precious than gold (A$10) just to stanch the flow of hunger juices; and instant noodles (A$5) worth probably 50 times their sari-sari (corner store) levels, just to persuade guts from persisting with their peristaltic movement, these little comforts that we took for granted the shifty-eyed stewardesses sold for a king’s ransom.  And did we have any choice?  Yes, if we could suspend our physical needs for half a day like yogis, monks and pilgrims do.  No, if we were like the rest of the world.

I was glad I insisted on bringing along not just one but two thick volumes to while away the endless hours waiting to land.  I finished a 400-page political satire entitled Running Mate by Anonymous (Joe Klein) just as our incomprehensible-sounding pilot (I think they do that on purpose, they don’t really want us to know what’s happening) was preparing our descent, and at least I could start Under The Dome by Stephen King at Changi International, where we would spend the next 8 hours sitting on our fat behinds.

To be fair, as airport malls go, Singapore’s was among the world’s best, not that I’d seen many (only HK and Sydney and oh, Melbourne), but it was literally a mall, as in there were stores and stores that stretched forever, a level above for conferences and meetings, esoteric (to me) store names like Longchamp, Dunhill and Longines, and endless corner monitors that extolled hermetically-sealed Singapore tourist spots.  It was a self-contained traveler’s idyll that you didn’t even need to venture out of.

But even the most interesting mallworld had its limits, and by the end of the first hour, esposa and I were all walked out, jetlagged and staggering around like zombies.  There was no choice but to improvise, and the nearest bench served as our temporary domiciles, bed, side table, reading lamp and all.  It didn’t matter that scores and scores of fellow wayfarers (with earlier flights) passed us by and sniffed at our temporary vagrancy.  We had made our (makeshift) bed, we had eight hours to lie in it, too.

So compared to both the previous leg and interminable wait, the last phase of our travel saga was a breeze : three hours between the Lion City and Manila, city of our birth.  It didn’t matter so much anymore that everything we asked for (food and small comforts) was for sale, it likewise didn’t matter it was a smaller plane (an Airbus I think) more sensitive to turbulence and changes in the weather.  Nearly everyone on board was a brown brother or sister and I counted myself lucky that seatmates in front of, behind me and at my sides were nearly catatonic with fatigue, hunger or boredom.  I had already started on Stephen King.

After all the brainfreeze inducing trips and waits, the best surprise of the journey was at NAIA.  If you can believe it, it took us all of five minutes to wait for and sort our generic luggage from the carousel, a hearbeat in time; immigration practically waved us through ( I felt like a VIP, rather than the anonymous OFW proletariat that was ready to be bullied by apparatchiks), customs didn’t even look at our baggage declaration, and the airport taxi driver didn’t even ask for a TIP!  It sounds naive, but the feel-good, no-drama treatment we received from border patrol made up for everything else.

I’m not going to double back and sugar coat / edit all the silliness we endured, all in the name of pinching pennies and scrimping on comfort.  We got what we asked for, and we have learned from or experience.  Between waking up in Wellington and hitting the mattress back home, more or less 36 hours had passed.  For good or ill, this was what we bargained for, literally.  Would you do it?  Would we do it again?

Yes we are, honestly.  Deduct a few hours waiting time, and we are going through the exact same itinerary returning to the salt mines in Windy Welly.

Thanks for reading !

why Mimi & Jarvis Laurilla and the KASAGIP Charitable Trust are my favorite kinoys*

Mimi and Jarvis and KASAGIP help migrants of all kinds and situations, because they know how hard it is to pass through the eye of the needle.

MARICEL (NOT her real name) was three days away from an expiring work visa, and all her dreams 72 hours from similarly dwindling down the drain.  Because of a lucky referral, she rang the subjects of today’s blog.  Each hour from then on was crucial, but they were well-spent.  Clever paperwork was lodged, a proper job offer produced, processed and verified, Maricel saved from a one-way ticket home, and 24 months later the latest in a proud tradition of deserving Asian permanent residents, each day contributing to the choo-chooing of the resurgent New Zealand economy.

Maricel’s is an exceptional case, because she would’ve spent the last iota of her strength to stay in Aotearoa anyway, her friends were prepared to see her through her immigration adventure, and she was fortunate enough to benefit from the passion and zeal of KASAGIP volunteers led by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, who have braved fate, fickle bureaucracy and the sometimes treacherous tides of career and fortune, to help new migrants in New Zealand, as they were once migrants themselves.

KASAGIP is shorthand for Kapatirang Kabalikat sa Kagipitan, which loosely translated from Tagalog is community partners (or brothers/sisters) in times of need, but SAGIP, the root word, also means rescue.  KASAGIP is a label “of those who rescue”.  The name of their devoted team is both an acronym and a keyword for the passion of those who help with and rescue from, the challenges and obstacles of migration.

It would be misleading to say Mimi and Jarvis have done all the work, but they are the driving force of a potent group which has literally brought out of the deepest hole 20 migrants or hard-luck “cases” of which Maricel is only the latest.  The Skilled Migrant Policy stream that provides NZ migrants with livelihoods is double edged, as it sends home those who fail to find jobs that fit the would-be migrant’s skill set.  Kasagip takes this quirk of fate to heart, as it is prepared to help those who fall between the cracks of good intentions and well-meaning opportunity.

Mimi, Jarvis and their corps of hardy volunteers have undergone no formal training as immigration consultants, counselors, lifesavers or employment advisors, only the hard-knock realworld lessons of experience applying for legitimate migrant status themselves.  Add  to that, a vocation to help those similarly situated, and wanting a better life for themselves in foreign shores far from home.

To finance the logistics of helping hardluck migrant wannabes, the Laurillas and KASAGIP conceived of a thousand-and-one ways to raise money, not the least being the KASAGIP annual garage sale, grants and funding from city governments and foundations, and the goodwill donations of the KASAGIP Golden Club, anything to maintain liquidity and independence from the profit motive.

In return, this incredibly inspiring organization ask for nothing except the satisfaction of seeing an aimless, wandering and hopeless migrant brought back from the depths of despair and into the land of the living.  That is, the land of hope and new life, in New Zealand.

Each migrant sent home represents a dream extinguished, a dream that Mimi and Jarvis are not ready to give up, as long as they have the minimal requisite of passion and initiative.  Without this, KASAGIP would not survive.  And neither would the many migrants it helps.

For this and many other reasons, Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, their comrades in KASAGIP, and their converts, are truly my favorite Kinoys.  They deserve to be your favorites, too !

Thanks for reading !

PS.  For more info and if you want to help them help others, pls email kasagipcharitabletrust@yahoo.co.nz, visit their Facebook page (Kasagip Charitable Trust) or simply ring them (04)528-5238 in NZ.  Gain the goodwill and pay it forward, woohoo !

*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand

The last day before the rest of your life

Note :Because of recent events, two years to plan for NZ has become two months.  In the haze of applications, transitions and goodbyes, it will probably be a good thing for them, and I’m writing a letter before things finalize for Ganda and Bunso.  Hope you don’t mind proofreading for me! 🙂 ]

Dear Ganda and Bunso :

WOW, SO glad you breezed through your medicals.  For a while I thought Bunso’s ECG was going to be a source of worry, but I’m glad the doctor signed off at the last moment.

I’m sure you think that it’s a pity that you can’t say proper goodbyes to your friends, relatives and classmates, monies for get-togethers and shindigs have all but dried up, I hope you understand that as it is, I’ve effectively set aside any hope of saving for the next few months, as your mother has likewise, I’m sure.

But the prize is great, that is seeing you here sooner rather than later, allowing you career and educational opportunities that wouldn’t be available back home, and of course seeing you grow into young adults full of hopes and dreams in a brave new world.  Neither your mom nor I would think twice about the little sacrifices needed, in comparison.

If I may say so, you have the best of both worlds.  I say this because you have grown up in the country we will love the rest of our lives, P.I. of course, and you will never forget how it is to have grown up there.

On the other hand, you have the rest of your lives to build your careers, your families and things you can be proud of in a country that rewards you for hard work, initiative and honesty.

I see lots of kids here who are lucky the way you will be lucky, but they missed out on Pinoy culture and values, which is for me something like a vacuum considering they are dyed-in-the-wool offspring of Pinoys and Pinays.  They still speak Tagalog, but haltingly and would rather just reply in English in what usually turns out to be one sided Tagalog conversations.

On the other hand, there will be your contemporaries who are equally talented and hard-working as you, but will never have the opportunities and jobs that you will have.  That’s why I believe you have the advantages of dual cultures and multiple options.  You have an amazing view looking forward, but you have a rich vista of homeland memories as inspiration for fulfillment and success.

In return, all you need to do is be the best that you can be, be passionate about things you enjoy doing, and not be afraid to start the adventure of a lifetime.

I love you always and can’t wait for you to get here.  Kaawaan kayo lagi ng Diyos !


PS.  Just a few reminders :  soak up your telenovelas, they don’t air here; munch up on those chichirya, Piattos and Nova aren’t available except in Asian stores; and don’t fill orders for any pirated DVDs; they’re not worth the hassle 🙂  take care!

Kiwi Pinaylover vs Accidental Migrant: Q&A Just B4 End of Shift

Perhaps the wisest and most well-known choice among high-profile mixed marriages : wife na, adviser pa, bodyguard pa !

[ Note from Noel : So many more important things we could talk about, like Pedring and the tsunami-like visit to our shores, or the Festival of Carnivale performance of FILINARTIZTS in Wellington CBD, but instead we hope not to bore you to death with another of our late-night tales. Belated happy birthdays to Mr Martin Go (19th Sept), Ms Feli Tan-Co (28th)and Mr Jimmy Sy (30th) Woo-hoo! ]

JUST BEFORE OUR FALLING-OUT, the last four words outstanding that I saw on SuperBisor‘s search box were Pinay, Cupid, Datesearch (please don’t ask if there’s such a word) and the synonym-conscious love, I pretended not to be amused, and you can imagine how difficult this might be, as SB is a super-serious person, and I beheld his handheld by the most serendipitous of accidents : I happened to pass by his table when he thought I was nowhere near.

So it didn’t take a Ms Universe finalist-cum-board topnotcher to surmise that SB was on the hunt for a Pinay significant other, never mind that tens of thousands of other virile Caucasian males were in the same wolfpack (awooooo…), I wanted to wish him good luck, but remember I wasn’t supposed to know his honorable intentions, so I just smiled knowingly (to myself) and hoped he didn’t fall in love too hard and too soon.

Fatefully, I got it wrong on both counts, but before that, I said earlier that we had a falling-out diba, albeit a minor one.  Last time I tried to remember, it had to do with one too many Asian jokes, I actually asked for a new shift partner, and of course this didn’t sit well with him.  After some time apart, I realized most of the time he didn’t really mean it, and if he really was on the hunt, then the joke was on him right?  And so without even knowing it, we kissed and made up.

And so in the meantime, would you believe it?  He had met (online naturally) the love of his life, gone home to our very own Philippine Islands and visited the girl and her family.  And so right in my own backyard was an honorary Pinoy who was moving heaven and earth to get his Pinay love here.  And so out poured the torrent of words and phrases about his quest for love, but mostly out-of-this-world questions about our land and our way of life.

Some of them are funny, others are downright outrageous, and I’ve selected only a few of them below.  They are united by a singular theme : a search for meaning in our unique Pinoy world.  By the way, he tries not to ask me for the whole shift, but when the night grows deep and there’s nothing to do when log-out draws near, he can’t help himself :

Question # 1 : Noel, how do people justify homecooking when eating out is so tasty and so cheap ?  The rhetorical nature of his question struck me, as I rightly assumed that he wasn’t really looking for an answer, merely a discussion, but I attempted to respond anyway.  Seems that he, together with his Mahal, had been eating at Gerry’s Grill almost every day his final week back home, and he estimated that the awesome meals he had been served, if done so with equivalent quality and quantity in NZ, would be priced around five times (no exaj) what he paid.

This was how I answered him : Boss, remember that the great food you had was created by Pinoy Moms (and Dads) at home, and the recipes we enjoy all over the country can be found in every Filipino home.  Moreover, despite the reasonable prices you’ve seen, wages are quite humble in the average Pinoy household, so we can’t eat out with our pay.

Question # 2 : Why do Pinoys text so much, and why are there so many numbers in our words?  Its hard to divorce the Pinoy’s environment from the virtual world of texting, where every Filipino is an avatar of messages flying around millions of other mini-missives sent by tens of millions of other avatars.  I didn’t need to explain this to him, as he noted that the humble vendor, office girl, university student and everybody else was immersed half the time in a crouched texting posture.  I told him that SMS texting is a practical, cheap and instant, though admittedly generic form of social intercourse without which daily Pinoy life would be unthinkable.  And the numbers?  I explained that like English, some number words (represented by digits) are homonyms or parts of homonyms like 8 for it, 2 for to and 4 for for.  Numbers also refer to the number of syllables repeated, which is how Tagalog verbs are often conjugated.  Bottom line, I told him, is that every character is important in every SMS message for the load (or phone credit) conscious Pinoy.

Question # 3 : How do Pinoys survive the smog and pollution in Metro Manila, for all its attractions ?  He had to ask this as I often commented on how clean Wellington air was to me, and to many other Asians born and bred in megacities like Hongkong, Taipei, Singapore and Bangkok.  The three weeks he spent in Manila, he hardly saw blue skies (not that he spent that much time outside the hotel 😉 ), the carbon monoxide and soot content was a bit too much for his taste, and while the weather was ten degrees friendlier than NZ’s early spring, he wondered why not more was being done to keep the air clean.

How do you answer that?  I had to tell him that living in the city meant you had to tolerate certain realities in return for higher wages, amenities you take for granted, and access to services like transportation and health care.  In the long run it wasn’t healthy, but (as I winked to him) that’s why Pinoys keep searching for a better life overseas, and hope against hope that realities change back home.

Question # 4 : Why do Pinoy men sometimes do their private business (Number One, as it is sometimes euphemistically called) in public, in full view of pedestrians and children?  Obviously, this was discomfiting as much to him as it was to me. In NZ, one would easily be placed under arrest by a constable who happened to pass by, as much for indecent exposure as for littering.  Overlooking both a major Makati thoroughfare and the busiest artery in Metro Manila (equivalent to the liveliest intersection in Wellington, probably) his hotel window was once witness to a man painting a building wall in full view of schoolchildren crossing the street at 9 in the morning.

Again, what could I say?  It’s very hard to remove or reform certain bad habits that clutter our backyard of odd Pinoy ways, and this, relieving ourselves, is certainly one of them.  The bad habit is a remnant of the days when there was a talahib or group of bushes in every block of houses, and nobody bothered if we wanted to “fertilize” the plants.  He could not relate to this explanation, until I admitted to him that most of the guilty parties were also drinkers who after one too many beers had to unload.  Any healthy Kiwi who loves any of the 50-plus NZ beers could understand that, and he did.

And I didn’t need to ask him if this changed his view any of Pinays and his Pinay girlfriend, as he is already organizing her maiden voyage abroad, and straight into his arms.

I would say lucky girl, if I didn’t think SB was so outrageously lucky himself. 🙂

Thanks for reading !


You know a foreigner’s been exposed to Pinoy DNA when…

A Filipino stew, using tamarind and pork. Mmmm.

the famous sinigang na baboy, with all the trimmings including gabi I hope :p

There are many ways to be infected with Pinoy DNA (Di Na Awkward), but the most popular are to have a Pinoy girlfriend (or, less frequently, boyfriend), to have relatives by affinity and big groups of friends (known as barkada back home) who are Filipino, and lastly to bear the preponderance of Filipino colleagues or workmates at the workplace.  Below are strong signals that an erstwhile dayuhan (foreigner) is no longer considered an outsider, for not only do Pinoys eagerly love to welcome a former outsider into their fold (misery loves company); once a (or an honorary) Pinoy, always a Pinoy!

S/he no longer finds adobo/menudo too salty, sinigang too sour,  Bicol express /ginatang gulay too spicy, or leche flan too sweet.  I know just the thought of these home cooked dishes, especially to Pinoy expats, causes some of us to salivate and drool, but I can’t imagine how most aliens who are used to more bland, un-spicy and un-spiked dishes would react.  It seems that most of them develop a taste for tangy, sharp-tasting and strongly seasoned foods that we are used to, for I have not found a dayuhan who hasn’t liked our food or at least understood why we prepare our dishes the way we do.

Either that, or they are too courteous to make comments about their wives’ / girlfriends’ cooking.  Of course we can’t expect them to take in adidas, balot, IUD or dinugaan as we’ve been born with these treats, and especially since it’s an acquired taste, but I do know some Kiwis who’ve gotten used to and actually included sinangag, pancit and boneless bangus in their regular diet / menu.  I even had to tell a mate that the chop suey he had gotten used to was a less spicy version of the chow mien and nasi goreng across the South China Sea.

S/he no longer minds or raises hell when everybody talks Tagalog/Visayan/Ilokano in her/his presence.  This used to be a real issue with me, being a purveyor of  political correctness, not to mention sympathy for the husband of a new Pinoy friend who visited our flat frequently.  Everybody would speak Tagalog and all its permutations (Batangueno Tagalog, Bulakeno Tagalog, Caviteno Tagalog) while the Kiwi barely had a chance to follow any of the simultaneous conversations that Filipinos , whenever they get together, frequently conduct.  I would vainly attempt to translate the numerous phrases flying through the air, when his wife once told me : hayaan mo na Noel. Sanay na sya.  I slowly learned to give up after that.

S/he knows most of the obscene / curse words from our language / dialect, and moreover knows how to counter them, for example, when someone sez do you know p-ina mo, they come right back and say yes, and p-ina mo rin.  Sort of makes us blush to learn what they already know, but it’s one way to break the ice, especially in front of salty-speaking beer-drinkers and lambanog-shooters.  Even the objectionable language from different dialects all over the archipelago are fair game, particularly when the foreigner in question has made the rounds of the Islands.  Because foreigners love to hop around the islands, learning a few words here and there seems to be an indispensable part of the travelling experience, and they are all the richer for it.

I've heard that unauthorized DVDs of "Magkaribal" have English & Samoan subtitles. Cheesy!

S/he has at least working knowledge of the Pinoy fondness for telenovelas, not only the homegrown kind but from everywhere tearjerkers abound.  Used to be in the old country,  TV prime time was filled with canned shows from the US, and maybe a weekly special or two from Superstar Nora Aunor or Star for all Seasons Vilma Santos.  Nowadays right after the 6:00 news, you are expected to watch three hours of soap operas featuring homegrown talent like the Baretto Sisters (Gretchen and Claudine), love teams like John Lloyd and Bea or Piolo and Angel, or can’t miss blockbusters from Korea (Boys Over Flowers) and Taiwan (Meteor Garden) or even reboots of proven winners from Mexico (Marimar,  Maria Mercedes, Echabelita, etc).

The simple formula of poor-girl-meets-rich-boy (or poor-boy-meets-rich-girl), fantasy epics or rags-to-riches sagas spanning three generations is run through the mill again and again, across language barriers and cultures and Pinoy viewers will lap up whatever is served them.  Evidently we do our local recipes well, because Samoans, Fijians, Tongans and other Polynesians love our telenovelas, to the extent that whole seasons of pirated DVDs are available, if you know where to look, in Islander communities in NZ, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the same were available in Aussie.  Now, as someone with a significant other, girlfriend or GFF/BFFs from the Pinoy community, you should be prepared to put up with endless viewing of these drama staples, especially if the Pinoys in question are new migrants and/or are Gen X or Gen Y members, who were probably still in the Philippines when the soaps reached or near the peak in popularity.

Just a tongue-in-cheek warning to our guests and white-skinned mates : keep in mind those behavioral observations above and you can’t go wrong in getting along with us Pinoys.  Have you any other tips in mind?

Thanks for reading!


Tanaw ang Ortigas Center / mula Hobbiton, Middle Earth

Picture taken in 2005 from a Motorola conventi...

Image via Wikipedia

[ NOte from NOel : belated happy Araw ng Kalayaan ! ]

(Some details have been changed.)

The name was the first clue.

Good evening, this is Maricris, thank you for calling Little Brown Brother Telecoms. How may I assist you with your issues?

(Ahem.) Hi Maricris, my name’s Noel, I haven’t had internet the last three weeks since moving house. I gave notice that I was moving house around that time but I haven’t heard from you since then ? Could you help me sort out my reconnection please?

Certainly Noel, I just need your DOB or date of birth or account number, so I may assist you straightaway.

The accent is an even stronger clue, a definite giveaway this time… just a few seconds of listening and I’m fairly confident Maricris grew up most probably in one of the metro centers, Manila or Cebu most likely. Slight traces of Visayan sounding vowels as well.

I have a third clue coming, probably the most important.

Most Kiwis have a hard time with my surname, may I just spell it out for you? B-A-U… I start.

Not a problem at all, I can pronounce your name easily, Mr Bautista.


You’ve probably tried to reach me before, I’ve seen the missed call prompts, but we’re not allowed to use cellphones in the workplace.

That’s too bad, sir. ( I barely noticed it, but I haven’t heard anyone use sir on me since ordering Palabok Value Meal Christmas 2009 at Jollibee Megamall [sigh] ) Because we can’t send your modem unless we’re sure someone’s around to personally receive it. May I confirm if someone will be home for receipt of the item?

( I can’t confirm but I’m tired of bringing me and my bulati to internet cafes in single-digit Celsius in the middle of Windy Welly. ) I’m only 50-50 sure that my son will be home, but could you help me out and take a chance on delivery?

The courier won’t leave it and your service will only be delayed further Sir Emmanuel.

Noel, please. ( I smile, because I know they can sense it.) And I know you’re Pinoy, Maricris, so Taglish na lang, OK?

(Laughs.) I thought so sir, but we’re not allowed to speak in Tagalog unless the client requests it specifically. But talking to a kabayan is always a pleasant surprise. Kumusta po ang New Zealand?

Wag mo na rin akong i-po, tumatanda ako lalo (am blushing, hope she doesn’t sense it.) Makikisuyo lang Maricris, pwede bang irelease yung modem asap? Ako na ang bahalang dumiskarte sa tatanggap. Ayos pala kaming mga kababayan mo rito sa NZ, medyo malamig lang ngayon.

Eh sir kung ma-assure nyo lang na may tatanggap nang personal sa bahay nyo wala namang problema po yan. Wag nyo rin pong kalimutang ibalik ang lumang modem and cable para di kayo ma-bill.

I asked her why it took longer than usual to organize my internet service given that I’d already given notice of my house transfer.

Kasi po di sila kikilos unless magset kayo ng appointment na tatanggapin nyo yung modem eh. Ganun po talaga yung procedure eh… pwede po bang magtanong sir?

Oo naman, ano yun? (having a good idea what she would probably ask).

Madali po bang magkajob dyan sa NZ? Direct hire po ba kayo o nakipagsapalaran kayo?

Hmm, so people knew the hit-or-miss, all-or-nothing nature of some job seekers here. Or at least, maybe I wasn’t the first accidental migrant Maricris bumped into on-the-job.

Offhand, I was a bit surprised at her directness in asking cuz I knew the call was being recorded (for quality assurance and training purposes, the last thing I heard before she came on the line). But mainly because it was such a spontaneous exchange, I went ahead.

Naku Maricris kung alam mo lang, parang butas ng karayom ang linusot ko makahanap lang ng work. Sinwerte lang, lalo na’t di na ideal destination ang NZ for guest workers. Onti na lang ang work permit holder tulad ko, either naging permanent resident na or umuwi na, baka sumubok na sa ibang bansa.

I could almost see the brightness in her face dissipating into a more neutral, professional mask.

So parang ayaw nyo na rin dyan Sir?

Syempre maganda’ng sahod so habang kelangan pa ako ng employer, tyaga na lang.

Advise mo ba kung magtry akong pumunta jan?

Dumalaw ka muna Maricris sa website ng Immigration NZ, dub dub dub immigration dot gov tee dot enzed, tingnan mo Skilled Migrant Category, baka may relevant experience ka malay mo. Pero kung ako sa yo sumubok ka ng ibang options tulad ng US, Australia etc.

It doesn’t feel good discouraging a kabayan especially when NZ had given me so much, but better to open their eyes now than disappoint her with starry – eyed tales of streets lined with jobs and tree branches heavy with Kiwifruit dollars.

Gaano katagal na kayo jan sir, anjan na rin ba family nyo?

(hahaha, this had become a migration orientation pep talk.)

Naku three years na rin ako pero walang security, pabago bago ihip ng hangin Maricris. me dalawang anak pa ako jan pero nauna na yung panganay, Kiwi kasi stepdad nya.

(sighs.) buti pa kayo jan sir pauwi-uwi na lang twing Pasko, at kumikita pa ng dollars !

Wag mong ismolin ginagawa mo Maricris, mas importante ginagawa nyo habang nasa malayo kami, kayo ang nagpapatakbo ng Pilipinas. Paano na lang kung aalis lahat diba? Your time will come hija.

Kakaiyak naman kayo sir. Nainspire tuloy akong ayusin career ko rito.

Kuya Noel na lang. Ayusin mo lang problema ko, and kahit kelan welcome ka tumira sa amin kapag nagbakasyon ka sa Wellington.

tutoo yon ha Kuya?

Oo naman ! Nga pala, Happy araw ng kalayaan Maricris !

Maligayang Independence Day Kuya. And thank you for calling Little Brown Brother Telecoms.

***  ***  ***  ***  ***

The modem arrived without hassle a few days later.

Thanks for reading !








Pinoy Man vs Wild (in workingclass Wellington)

Looking southwest towards Cook Strait and the ...

Image via Wikipedia

Dear kabatch schoolmates brods kabayan Huttmates and friends :

WE GREW up with Tagalog English and a bit of Bicolano at home, and all these at school, plus some Fukienese with classmates, and stiff Mandarin to the teachers. So we have a bit of experience on what sometimes gets lost in translation and the nuances that fall between the cracks, dialect to dialect.

What we can’t comprehend is the same thing happening, getting signals crossed we mean, among English speakers who spout plain speech among themselves. Same basic nouns, verbs and adjectives, same rudimentary grammar, and same subject-predicate construction. Somewhere, the message gets lost, but we are supposed to use the same lingo. Que pasa Kuya Eddie ?

The key word here is basic, cuz while apple isn’t banana, dogs chase cats and boy goes with girl, everything else is subject to however a word, figure of speech or idiom is used. We found this out in the course of our workday adventures with mostly blue-collar tradesmen and factory lifers in working-class Wellington, not only demographically a world apart from our office-bound job descriptions in Manila but also less homogenously diverse, i.e. we are the only rank-and-file Asian in the exclusively male workplace.

Because of various shades of meaning, the different ways words are accepted in different environments, and the wide spectrum of euphemisms associated with even the simplest terms, there is no black and white when you talk to people you haven’t been with for too long, and our Kiwi experience is no exception.

We have here only five examples of how bewildered we get when we hear Kiwi-isms, despite the fact that we’ve been here more than three years, we talk to the natives every day of our lives, and we keep the exchange of words and phrases as simple as can be. Do any of these sound familiar to you ?

Your turn to shout – To be fair, everybody at work gets a chance to treat everyone to lunch / dinner, be it due to a birthday, a won bet at rugby, or a tax refund. But some blokes need to be reminded, and others conveniently forget its their turn to shell out the cash, and they need to be told, it’s your turn to shout, shout being the Kiwi word for buy everyone a free lunch or meal. Etymologically and euphemistically, there is little to connect the word with how we imagine buying a foodie treat for your friends and colleagues, and this is why we’re mystified as to why shout is used as such. When our bisor told us, “NOel, don’t bother bringing lunch tomorrow, Dave won big at the races and is shouting lunch for all of us,” we couldn’t make the connection between winning and shouting, but now we do. And we work up an appetite in the process.

Bloody crazy, bloody hard, or bloody good – This is less in used among Maoris and Kiwis than UK transplants and second generation Brits here. They seem to liberally use the term bloody in place of any and all adverbs when they run out of normal superlatives, especially the males in describing aspects of work, sports and females with superior physical attributes.

On Pinoy sensibilities, this naturally has unsettling and indelicate effects, given that the literal translation (madugo) conjures unsavory images totally unrelated to the supposedly positive and invigorating connotations of the said modifier.

[ NOte : a certain word in next item, represented by similar f-words is used in the demonstrative or ironic sense only and is not intended to offend or outrage.]

liberal use of the F-word – Very similar to previous item, for example the effin’ rain ruined the fishing, when are we gonna get some effin overtime, or how about those freaking Hurricanes ey? It is used to generate a variety of picturesque feelings and emotions, usually intense, about manly ( or even not-so-manly ) interests. It might also be used to convey mild anger or frustration, as in when the eff is that delivery truck coming, or what the eff is he doing in the toilet so long ???

Where we come from, the use of that word signifies three things : you’re spoiling for a fight, you’re extremely angry, or you are quite drunk. It took a bit of paradigm shifting to get accustomed to this, as we didn’t know whether to defend ourself, get into a frisky debate, or prepare some strong coffee or some sobering substance. Turns out that we don’t need to do any of that as the typical Kiwi worker is bred with a tongue as salty as the nearby Cook Strait, and this quite ironically contrasts with his good nature and even termper.

You have to do it / boss sez do it – The surest way to rouse resistance and lip from the staff, in our experience, is to phrase the request as an order, even if in reality it IS one. This our Sri Lankan manager knows too well, and never fails to assign even the most important and basic tasks to lowest peons like ourself in the most courteous and disarming way.

It’s probably the most precious lesson he’s learned, something that’s still lost from time to time on our supervisors, who earn a lot of grief and B.S. even if they assign the most routine and elementary chores that the assignees would’ve ended up doing in the normal course of duties anyway. It’s even worse when the boss’s name is dropped, as in boss sez you should do this, or boss asked me to tell you to do that, when in fact the Big Guy had no idea. This is probably due to the fact that most Kiwis are wary of authority, love their independence and bristle at having to be told what they do all their professional lives.

F-off or bugger off – We fittingly thought of this last as it’s what our workmates love to say when the end of the workday draws near or a wearying shift is at hand. Time to bugger off, mate is both an amusing and heartfelt goodbye issued us by the person coming in to replace us on the next shift, Why aren’t you f-ing off yet, get out of here is the rough but friendly way of getting rid of us by others. Which all goes to show that the gruffest guys can still retain their good spirits and charm, using the code of machospeak and good-work-now-get-rest-for-tomorrow-is-another-day mentality.

Thanks for reading !