why celebrating Christmas bigtime makes us more pinoy: pasko sa Welly

thinly-disguised shameless self-promotion, but we were chosen by our KASAGIP handler Mimi Rojo-Laurilla to be a flagbearer in the Pasko sa Welly entry of colors portion. Thanks for the chance to serve and to Philippine Army Major (reserve) Marcelo Esparas and NZ Army Band veteran Pat Salandanan for leading us!

thinly-disguised shameless self-promotion, but we were chosen by our KASAGIP handler Mimi Rojo-Laurilla to be a flagbearer in the Pasko sa Welly entry of colors portion. Thanks for the chance to serve and to Philippine Army Major (reserve) Marcelo Esparas and NZ Army Band veteran Pat Salandanan for leading us!

[ Note : sorry for the long title if I haven’t edited it, everyone ! ]

THERE WERE at least two choirs (mostly from the Philippine Embassy and the Wellington Pinoys) who sang well enough to be professionals, but were doing it for love; a parol-making contest, and various Filipiniana performances choreographed by QSM awardee Anita Mansell; Pinoy-themed parlor games hosted by Clark and Didith Figuracion but in the end there were many other events that made the whole so much more than the sum of its parts, the whole that was fondly known as the Pasko sa Wellington for the Filipino community in the southern North Island of New Zealand last Saturday Dec 1st.

It could’ve just been generous praise, but it did sound sincere when Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown told the initially sparse crowd (that eventually grew later in the day) that she marveled at the effort (songs, dance, games and participation) that Pinoys dedicated to the Christmas season.  When told by our Ambassador Virginia Benavidez that the season back home actually started at least three months before, the mayor responded that, with the frenetic Christmas atmosphere generated by migrant Pinoys, it wasn’t surprising to know at all.

different Pinoy choirs singing both the NZ and Philippine national anthems

different Pinoy choirs singing both the NZ and Philippine national anthems

Behind the scenes unbeknownst to our VIP guests, including Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy, Papal Nuncio representative Msgr Emine and Wellington Pinoy chaplain Fr Ambet dela Cruz, Pasko sa Welly was a multilateral effort made possible by many Pinoy interest groups and civic-minded kabayan including the KASAGIP Charitable Trust, Bulwagan Trust, Mabuhay Association, Filifest Dancers, Filinartizts, Catholic groups, Pinoy musicians and so many other priceless contributions from the Pinoy community.

Not the least of which was the performance of a 100% Pinoy band from Upper Hutt and the world-class emceeing of KASAGIP’s very own Neil Martinez, who saved the show from quite a few awkward moments between performances.

Many thanks to all the artisans, entrepreneurs and merchants who sold their wares in the Pasko sa Welly premises and made the event more interesting.

And as the good Wellington mayor quipped, it wouldn’t surprise her to know that each and every Pinoy contributed to the event without any thought of recompense, as if seeing bright and happy faces in and around our Filipino community wasn’t reward enough.  Truly, what makes us celebrate Christmas makes us more Pinoy.

Many thanks as well to the event sponsors like SMDC and Western Union for your contribution, and every person who made an effort to make Pasko sa Welly the great event that it was.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat, maligayang Pasko and thanks for reading!

The Day It Snowed Forever

esposa hermosa y yo como nyebe en hardin dela casa poquito...and that's not dandruff on my shoulders 🙂

[ Note from Noel : Hoping I don’t sound boastful and alienate anyone with the once-in-a-lifetime weather blog (never having experienced this before), happy August birthdays to  Pinoy Basketball sa Auckland commissioner Engr Norman Latosa, basketball / drum&bugle buddy Mr Philip Uy, Collegian immortal Noel Pangilinan, Malcolm Hall schoolmates Attys Koko Purisima – Punsalang and Rhona Modesto – San Pedro, 90-C kabatch Atty Anj Agcaoili – Roman, SJCS 82 batch Dr Gina Yu – Tecson, forever Alphan Lord Chancellor Atty Dennis Acorda, and forever Sydney siobe Marlene Venes – Morrison ]

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

The pic above is deceptive.  We look bright and cheery but it’s because of the snow, the sense of rebirth amidst the dreary and dying wintry season.  Winter has a way of doing that.

In the Philippines, rains that assault us year-round, when combined with the intensity of the monsoon season, often produce the hardship of extreme floods.  In New Zealand, storms that visit during winter months produce hailstorms but once in a rare while the two bad guys converge to produce something beautiful : a nationwide blanket of snow.

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The news had been warning it for days.  A week before, snow had visited the hilly parts of Wellington region for the first time in recent memory, unfortunately I wasn’t one of the fortunate souls to have witnessed it owing to erratic sleep and shift schedules; I had to content myself with what passed for snow on the blades of windshield wipers; dregs of snowfall on the trunks and hoods of workmates’ cars from Johnsonville and Upper Hutt; and local newsclips on TV, which incidentally were picked up by international wires elsewhere in the world ( Wellington‘s first snow since 1960s, full story at 10:30! ).  In summary, while I was in the deepest recesses of the mill, or trying to catch up on sleep, or otherwise dead to the world, snow was falling.  Deep sigh.

I won’t overdramatize it and say I’ve never seen snow, after all I’ve been in NZ, less than 3000 km from the South Pole, for nearly four years now.  Twice I’ve joined other Pinoys to a short trip to a ski resort known as Mt Ruapehu, but stopped short of an impromptu ski / snowboarding lesson as it would involve rentals and tutorials that my mini-budget didn’t allow.

But to have the white stuff pour down right in front of your doorstep was a treat we hadn’t expected, although the portentous snowcapped hills were already encircling our line of sight.  From a lifetime of shielding our eyes from the tropical sun, it would now be a challenge to see how many snowflakes touch our eyeballs, squish our shoe / boot heels with snow, and hum sleigh bells ring… in an authentic, honest-to-goodness Winter Wonderland.

It wouldn’t be a breeze though.  Although I’ve been on shift work since 2008, burning the midnight oil to earn our bread has never gotten along with our sleep pattern, and the on-again, off-again nature of the much-anticipated snow did nothing to help us get our shut-eye.

And because the sub-zero weather kept me from both biking to work and jogging around the block, the bottom line was I was confusing my body with both a lack of regular sleep and excess energy.

one of the false alarms before actual snowfall, afternoon of Tuesday. the 16th. But if you notice, frost begins to build on trees.

And as expected, a pair of false alarms aggravated the limbo between alertness, fatigue and blahness that I was experiencing.  When the precipitation against the window panes graduated from splat-splat-splat to pick-pack-pick, our neck hairs started rising and naively esposa hermosa, Panganay and yours truly rushed outside.  Sure enough, little pinpricks of white were falling, but hardly enough to call it snow.  Panganay had started his cartwheels and handstands on the lawn but E.H. stood her ground on the door step.

Kapag puti na ang driveway lalabas ako, di pa pwedeng tawaging snow yan she observed.

Too much for me to wait much more, I complained to Mr Frost and donned my nightcap, thermal underwear and facial cream.  Off to dreamland for this sleepy little Asian worker bee (zzzz…)

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Papa, Tita H, tutoo na ‘to ngayon, magpakuha na kayo ng pics!  Bilis!

Groggy from just the second of three 90-minute slices of precious sleep, and not fully comprehending what it meant, I ignored it and let EH respond to Panganay’s urgent rousing of our afternoon slumber.
A screech and a squeal later, I brought myself back to the real world and realized something more important that freezing rain was going on.
I rushed down and a blanket of snow had enveloped 360 degrees everywhere I looked.  Trees were groaning and looked Christmasy in the middle of August, children of neighbours who hardly ventured beyond the doors were gallivanting like street kids of Quezon Ave.  And snowmen were growing before our very eyes, if they weren’t prematurely being bowled over by improvised sleds and snowboards of ecstatic young ones and young once.  It was Christmas in the middle of the year.
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Like many events where human interest and natural phenomenon converge, people focus on such event via the obsession of statistics (inches of snowfall, lowest temperature reached, number of winter days, etc.)  Such statistics, in the midst of all that snow, hardly mattered to me, although there were three stats that struck this wide-eyed Pinoy :
1970’s – The decade when snow was last reported in either Wellington City or Auckland City;
35,000 – The number of Pinoys more or less who experienced the rarer-than-rare snowfall, in NZ; and
46 – The number of years this accidental migrant reached before witnessing snow on his backyard.
Thanks for reading !
PS. Lastly, it hasn’t happened where we live, but this should really make for a memorable winter if ever it happens…  Happy viewing !

Running & Malling With A Magic Multi-Colored Manny-P Jacket in Suburban Welly

for sindak value alone, it's worth the effort to wear...

In my heart I am an American. I am one of many, many people, and we are not who you think we are. We don’t just mow your lawns and babysit your kids and serve you tacos.”

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Fil-American, who has been an illegal immigrant for nearly 20 years.

[ NOte from NOel : Kudos to proud Ma & Pa for the awesome birthday party of Meg and Kim Montenegro Agustin, and greetings to Tita Nanette, kids and grandkids on the wedding anniversary of Atty. Renato and Nanette Montenegro !  Belated  happy birthday to early June kabatch celebrants Ralston Lim (2nd June), Katherine Ang-Chuabio (5th June), Belani Chan-Uy (6th June), Marivic Ching-Chua (6th June) and Stephanie Chan-Lam (9th June) ! Hope you all had a wonderful birthday! ]

BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE, I acknowledge Kuya Palo, a Noli Locsin-lookalike if I ever saw one, and probably the best drill / crane operator Wellington region has seen (or will ever see) from San Pedro Laguna and Sariaya Quezon. Because the jacket was at least one-and-a-half sizes too small for him, and I chanced to mention that I always wanted a Team Pacquiao jacket, he passed on to me the red-gold-and-blue one morning and non-chalantly told me it was mine forever.

After the initial euphoria, I matter-of-factly assessed the garment. It was definitely from Greenhills, where brands burst all over and buyers beware. But the colors were correctly shaded and authentically hued, and I was feeling patriotic that day, so I wrapped said jacket around my thermal undershirt and running jersey, and started, not without a little self-consciousness, around the suburb.

The temperature was no different from what I experienced the last few days : eleven to twelve Celsius, and just to jack up the degree of difficulty, my balahibo tasted the famous gusty Welly Winds + the companion wind chill factor. But the magic of wearing your country’s colors swept these discomforts aside, if only for a few moments.

Houses and flats I didn’t know were Pinoy-owned and rented revealed themselves. Rakers of late autumn leaves pause disbelieving at the mobile flag, and after a split-second smile a Filipino smile. Hands with unseen owners, preoccupied probably with ironing office shirts or folding laundry, wave from seldom-opened windows. Even pre-teens not too young to remember pre-school in the old country point to my sun-and-3-stars, and I point right back, hoping my lips echo back what my thoughts convey: “MA-NNY PA-QUIAO!”

Extending the facade of fame and familiarity were the honks and cheers of “PINOY” from cars whizzing past. After only a quarter of an hour I understood that these were kabayan who wanted to acknowledge the novelty of a roadside runner, and who undoubtedly were reminded of home. Of course, I waved back. One or two were actually Kiwis who asked me “Whatcha wearin mate?” laughed without even waiting for a response, and sped away. Of these I paid no mind, and ran the noble footrace of Pinoy Pride and Middle Age Fitness.

Best of all were the thumbs-up sign of fellow runners who did a double-take at the unusual duds but still appreciated the summer colors on a dreary day.

Hmmm. If I got these kinds of rave reviews outdoors, how would I do in the mall? Later in the day I joined the frost-avoiding throng and shuffled inside Westfield Queensgate, a winter oasis of Kiwi, Maori, Polynesian and Asian leisure warriors and heat-hunters during these cold climes.

Now I know there are about 10,000 Filipinos spread evenly across the cities of the region (Wellington City, Johnsonville, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt) but right now there seemed to be more than our fair city’s share, especially in this mall at this moment. I knew there were sales and winter bargains that brought the Filipinos out of the woodwork, but everywhere I turned there seemed to be one or two (or three).

Di ka naman siguro proud magmukhang Pilipino dyan, no? quipped a lineman from Tondo that I met last year, giving me a spirited jab of good natured sarcasm, which I took in stride. I could not jab him back, as he was pushing his newborn bundled in a pram alongside his convalescing Misis.

Suplada (haughty) Pinays in tight miniskirts, leggy leggings and smart berets, some of them already born here, held me in their gaze through Pagani and Glassons windows. I imagined that they’d seen me before but always thought I was Chinese or some other Asian. Now they knew better, in my dreams.

Two very Visayan grandmoms actually interrupted their chatter to give me a once-over to confirm to each other that yes, this singkit-eyed bansot was crazy enough to be a walking bandila, and one of them chirped “biri nice kulurs iho,” which I acknowledged with a “salamat po.” Right back to their kwentuhan.

One high schooler I caught staring at my jacket and hurriedly looking away. Very kayumanggi-looking and obviously 2nd generation Kinoy. I dismissed him without a second thought.

If you can believe it, in the space of two more hours running errands I met a dozen more compatriots and their families, some of them actually asking why I was wearing the national colors, but most of them telling me they had similar jackets of their own.

Well, why don’t you wear them like I’m doing now, I ask. I know it’s tacky and others think it’s baduy, but overall the feel-good factor overrides everything else. I mean, it’s not like I’ll ever be a member of the national team or challenge Manny P., so you know it’s all just in good fun, right? They usually just smile sheepish smiles and salute me like I’m a flagpole.

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In the course of our everyday, mundane lives we sometimes need to see a few things to remind us of what we left back home, and what we’re missing. If ever we didn’t wear our Pinoy-ness on our sleeves more often back home, and if ever we were less than proud to be Filipino, not to worry. Anytime (like now) would be a good time to start and, though they’re not essential, little reminders like Team Pacquiao jackets, Proud 2B Pinoy bumper stickers and saying something positive about our country and countrymen go a long way towards loving your very own, warts and all.

Maybe next time I’ll wear a salakot and camiso de chino to Filipino Mass, just to be as Pinoy as can be.

Mabuhay ang lahing kayumanggi!

Thanks for reading !