‘mabuhay ang kalayaan!’ to serve as honor guard 12th June


main room honor guards

Independence Day rites at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, New Zealand. I had the additional honor of carrying the flag. Extreme left is H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, KASAGIP Honor Guard Commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve). I am flanked by Miggy Siazon and Ted Lacsamana.

[Note: thanks and acknowledgment to KASAGIP, a Wellington Pinoy self-help volunteer group organized by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, Rachel Pointon and others; KASAGIP Honor Guard commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve), the Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington led by H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, and many others yet unnamed. Mabuhay kayo!]

IN THE OLD days, kings and lords couldn’t have defended their realms with just knights, swordsmen and men of valor. The best and bravest warriors had to be close to the king to protect him.

That meant that the farmers, builders, bakers and butchers, the humblest of the king’s subjects, all “volunteered” to be first in line, against the barbarian invaders or rival kingdoms.

The tradition of common folk in the army, volunteering for their leader, came to mind our Independence Day (Araw ng Kalayaan) when we volunteered to march as honor guard, bringing in the Philippine national flag, at the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand’s official residence in Wellington.

We are all common folk. I was and am a factory worker; our leader, although he was in the Army Reserve back home, is an accountant by trade and worked in the finance industry. All the others were and are comrades hardly out of university and had just started their jobs in the city.

We met all sorts of Filipinos at the occasion: community leaders, volunteers like ourselves, and kabayan just wanting to celebrate our independence day. In the end, it was just like one informal gathering wishing we were back home in the Motherland. One day we will all come home and be with all our loved ones again.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan everyone!

 

 

 

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why the NZ pinoy community is like a layered sapin-sapin


thanks and acknowledgment to manila-photos.blogspot.com

[Note : It goes without saying, but everything here is Your Loyal kaBayan Noel’s opinion. No research, no stats, just me.  If you’re still reading, thank you po. 🙂 ]

IN MORE than one local movie I saw growing up in the Philippines during the 1970s, someone would burst into a scene shouting, sunog, mga kapitbahay! SUNOG! (fire, neighbors, FIRE!) which would launch everyone in the scene into chaos, running around like headless chickens before an organized effort to put out the fire was conducted. The communication was short but sweet; the reaction instantaneous. A universal response of help for your fellow man, and an instinct towards self-preservation.

Figuratively, there are a few fires facing our little barangay community in Aotearoa, New Zealand. But the response is not as readily discernible as the cinematic fire scene above.

Instead of literal fires, we have social issues that potentially affect all Pinoys here. I picked out three major issues facing the Pinoy community in NZ today.

The first is the use of private educational training institutes to convince would-be kabayan into applying for student visas, in the hope of using a “back door” to residency. (This might’ve been effective before, but not now.) I won’t comment on whether or not this has helped Pinoys, it helps to know that an element of fraud has entered the picture, and there has been enough public discourse on the matter.

The second great issue is the situation faced by many Pinoys already in New Zealand: Is residency available, and how difficult (or easy) is it to attain such residency status? How important are the specific skills possessed by our different kabayan in improving their migrant status? Assuming a particular set of skills brought you to New Zealand shores, will the same skills give you permanent resident status? Are there any other avenues to migration success, like new legislation, amnesty, etc that are available?

Last but not the least is the ever-present issue of racism, overt and subtle, that permeates into all layers of NZ society.  It’s an issue that affects all migrants not just us Pinoys, but it’s important nevertheless.

These three issues affect us all in different ways, and to gain a personal understanding, I thought of how the NZ Pinoy community is divided, for my purposes, three generic (for lack of a better word) classes that view these and future issues in their respective ways.

(Describing or touching on the issues themselves is only incidental, my paksa is just to pigeonhole how we as Pinoys are affected and guessing at how each might react.)

WAGs and family. Or short for Wives and Girlfriends of Kiwis, and immediate family. These are our kabayan who’ve gained entry and residence into New Zealand via the partnership visa, by being wives, partners and fiancees of citizens here. On the surface, they are the ones who would have the least relateability to current issues facing migrants in New Zealand. After all, by virtue of being family, they are instantly considered New Zealanders as well, don’t you think?

It’s not as simple as that. For one thing, they have to live and work here like everyone else, and they have to prove that they are as skilled, dependable and as able to contribute to the local economy of their new home as well as the next guy (or girl). As much as anyone else, Pinay wives and partners of Kiwis keep their eye on the employment and economic pulse, because they have to compete for jobs and wages as most of us do.

Let’s be real: more than anyone else, Pinays who are here on a partnership visa don’t want to be seen as getting a free ride on living the dream in Aotearoa. They are just as skilled, hardworking, creative and results-oriented as any kayumanggi brother or sister. Some of us might mention that they are just a bit luckier than the ordinary Pinoy. Just don’t let any of them hear you. 🙂

The student visa holders. These are the kabayan who got here to study a field of expertise, allowed to look for a job for a certain period here in NZ after graduation, and if successful allowed to apply for permanent resident status.

I’ll be brutally honest with you: these are the kabayan who are affected most by the current issue of fraud in the migrant education industry, because the system is being abused in other countries. In the Philippines we aren’t entirely innocent either, unscrupulous kabayan use the dream of using a “shortcut” pathway to living in NZ permanently via the student visa: it simply isn’t done that way.

Some kabayan have hit the home run so to speak of attaining PR (permanent resident) status but they did it the hard, old-fashioned way. They applied for specialty courses in fields where very few or no New Zealanders are available, acquired the necessary skills, and with the companion Pinoy sipag at tiyaga applied for jobs fitting their new qualifications after graduation. These kabayan richly deserve their migrant rewards because they worked for it.

The skilled migrant pathway users. These are the guys who went through the proverbial eye of the needle. They acquired their experience and expertise in the Philippines, the Middle East, all over the world. They were lucky enough to be in professions that were badly needed in New Zealand. And they were either direct hires or gambled time and money looking for jobs that suited their qualifications before striking gold with a Kiwi employer using their particular talent and skill.

You know the script : Nurse, I.T. engineer, scaffolder, carpenter, builder, caregiver, teacher, all the traditional jobs and professions Pinoys are good at. But there are dozens and dozens of other positions we fill, simply because we are needed in the New Zealand workplace : communications linemen, draftsmen, allied medical professions like x-ray technicians, phlebotomists, physiotherapists; the list goes on and on.

Of course you’d expect the partnership visa holders, student visa holders and skilled migrant pathway visa holders to all be affected by an migrant related issue in New Zealand. Each time a Pinoy is granted entry here, we stake our country’s reputation as honest, hardworking, dependable, grateful, courteous, cheerful workers who only want a chance to live the New Zealand dream of a living wage for an honest day’s work.

It’s just we react a little differently depending on how we got here. The Pinoy community has so many layers, like the multi-colored sapin-sapin. The examples above barely scratch the surface.

It’s up to each of us to show others we deserve our precious Pinoy reputation, and everyday the challenge is renewed.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat! Thanks for reading!

 

looking for kalakbay : shared travel among kabayan


[thanks and acknowledgment to Fly Pal for the video above. Mabuhay!]

MY VERY first trip back to New Zealand from a balikbayan vacation, I sat next to a kabayan who was a nearly-perfect traveling companion on the last leg of an exciting but wearying journey: a five-hour snoozer between Sydney and Wellington.

He made small talk the first hour before we both gave in to fatigue (I’m sure he was also on the 11-hour flight I was on between Manila and Sydney), quieted down after the hot meal provided so that we could take a much-needed nap, and asked if I needed to use the bathroom or stretch my legs (I had the middle seat). I couldn’t have asked for a better kalakbay (co-traveler) if I had ordered one.

But interestingly (or Pinoyly) enough, some kabayan board a flight wanting or needing someone to be with them for a variety of reasons : it’s their first time travelling and are unsure of the different tasks needed to get through their flight smoothly; a lack of traveling confidence, or extreme tenderness or seniority in years finds a helping hand while traveling quite useful.

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Prior to wife Mahal’s first trip to Wellington, she was matched up on the Pinoy e-bulletin board with a mom and two sons joining their dad here. The mag-ina (mom and kids) were on their first trip to New Zealand, first trip outside the Philippines, first trip on a jumbo jet, first everything. It was a lot to take for a young mother full of luggage, the normal and human kinds, and a friendly face was quite welcome.

Without Mahal asking for it, by coincidence one of the boys sat next to her and was her foster son for 12 hours, with all the details to attend to, the real mom hardly minded at all. She occupied herself with minding a 7-year old, helped out a kabayan family, and got free practice as a harassed mom.

The kids are probably teenagers now, almost grown-up young men who won’t even recognize Mahal. But the memories remain, especially with the mom, and future mom.

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Then on our last trip back 2017, we were texted (again through introductions on the New Zealand e-group) that a lola (grandmom) was visiting her kids and grandkids in Johnsonville, a Pinoy stronghold in Wellington region. Would we be kind enough to escort her? In true bayanihan spirit, how could we not?

We had a merry mixup texting with more than one of her Manila-based sons and looking for her, but we didn’t give up. Binilin sya sa amin (she was entrusted to us) so we couldn’t enter the boarding area without her. True enough, she wouldn’t leave her son without seeing us first, and we entered the restricted area together.

Although we weren’t seatmates throughout the entire journey (Manila-Sydney and Sydney-Wellington), we checked in on her, ate together  and spent the stopover (a couple hours) together. From NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International) to Wellington Airport, we were like family.

We never saw her again after family collected her at Wellington arrivals, but the experience undoubtedly will remain with me, Mahal and lola. As should all shared travels between Pinoy kabayan.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!

4 wackiest things Kiwis have said to me


Note : Sorry for the long absence, a combination of filling in for those using up their annual leaves, extra few days of night shift, and I almost forgot about you Precious Reader. Anytime you see a highlighted phrase, it’s actually a link that leads to previous blogs, if you’ve got the time to visit 2010 Noel, 2012 Noel, and 2013 Noel. Thanks for reading! ]

POOR POSTURE  while lifting heavy loads, lower back pain and getting enough sleep are the things this OFW worries most about, day-to-day or oftener. The rest, or 99% of it, are minor details I can’t worry about too much or just don’t have enough time to dwell on, like (not that I just thought about it) getting offended or hearing things that offend lots of Asians like me.

It’s just too good, my gig here as blue-collar worker working in clean and green New Zealand. I have enough common sense to know that I’ve got a good deal going, and might as well make the proverbial hay while the sun shines.

But I still have ears that hear, skin that’s not always thick, and feelings that get hurt, from time to time. If not for my Pinoy sense of humor and easy-going personality, I would surely raise hell from some of these remarks, but mostly I just laugh it off and make an equally cutting remark to my colleague/s :

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What the eff are you heating in the microwave? it’s making my eyes water!  Some context here. Filipinos heat anything in the microwave oven, often not knowing that the resultant fumes and odor can be overpowering to people who are not used to the same. Examples are heating tuyo, daing, other dried food, spicy food, strong-smelling deep-fried stuff, etc. Factors like the relatively confined space of the lunch room, the spices and vegetables in the dish that when desiccated and re-fried sometimes magnify the smells and pungentness are sometimes overlooked by our kabayan. But when we are caught unawares we sometimes get surprised and offended that our hosts talk about our food this way. Personally I’ve allowed this to happen to me. While I get taken aback, I shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction. If I’m feeling maharot (saucy or salty), I say something like it’s dog meat, wanna taste? which leads me to the next wackiest item…

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Why do you guys (Filipinos) eat dog meat? The roughest, scariest Kiwi would cringe and shrink like a makahiya if I admitted to them that in some parts of the Philippines and among the very politically incorrect (that includes the hungry and starving, who don’t care), Man’s Best Friend is fair game not just as meat for a meal or meals but as finger food (pulutan) when enjoying a round of drinks. This is why I avoid such reality, but somehow or somewhere, when people gather round for tea or coffee and somebody else talks about weird eating, somebody suddenly remembers that this deplorable activity is still done in the Motherland.

Kahit anong paliwanag ko at pagpilit na it’s hardly done in certain places (if at all) anymore, my workmates just can’t believe we do it. Remember, in here (NZ) a lot of people treat their pets better than fellow human beings, cats and dogs are scrupulously and meticulously fed, better (again) than many human counterparts, and in cold weather during autumn and winter, it would be unthinkable to leave you animal companions outside the door, at the very least cat people (what cat owners are called as opposed to “dog people”) leave a “cat entrance” or holes in back doors for their feline friends to use after their nocturnal adventures outside.

Imagine these people, who love their dogs probably more than anyone else, learning that our kabayan EAT dog meat. It’s no big deal, since I would never do it myself, but you can imagine the fun I have explaining why it’s normal back home.

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Do you (or your wife) have a sister / cousin / niece you could introduce ? This is no exaggeration, but after the home grown Kiwi ladies, Filipinas / Pinays are indisputably THE most popular choice as life partners, wives or girlfriends of New Zealanders. There’s not enough room in this post for the reasons, but as a result, despite the proliferation of dating sites and electronic / social media methods, Kiwis are always looking for ways to get to know our kabayan Pinays. Word of mouth, informal introductions, any sneaky way of finding a Pinay are used as effective tools for these love-struck and love-hungry men.

All I can say is, I can’t blame them. I do find the question above from time to time, still startling and funny when it’s actually asked to me. And, as long as I know anyone available back home, why not ?

And lastly …

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You guys speak English quite well. How come? Well, duh. First of all, white guys, namely those from the USA, Canada, UK, and the rest of the British Commonwealth, DON’T HAVE the monopoly on speaking English. After all, it’s been spread far and wide first by the British Empire, and second by the great American project of education and expansion, as far as the Four Winds have taken the latter. So it’s no big surprise that your little brown brothers (or yellow, or black) speak English all over the globe.

But Filipinos have an extra edge. Our experience as an American colony, and then as part of the American Commonwealth, then as a US ally the last century has given us not just Americanization but also a facility in English far beyond any of our regional and continental neighbors.

Honestly, take away our cute accent and our insistence on speaking English our way, and we might even be better English speakers than our gracious Kiwi hosts. We don’t mangle our vowels, we don’t shorten our syllables, and we actually write English better than we speak it! So to all our Kiwi friends, please don’t be surprised if we match your English, word for word, phrase for phrase if not thought for thought. In English, as well as Cebuano, Ilokano, and of course, Tagalog.

Happy New Year, Happy Waitangi Day, and thanks for reading!

 

 

Last page of my 2017 OFW diary: salamat employer, salamat Wellington & salamat New Zealand!


overworked.jpg[Note: so sorry I haven’t reached out lately. Maraming salamat sa pagdalaw, maraming salamat sa pagbasa, at maraming salamat sa pagtangkilik! I’ve enjoyed your company throughout the year, hope the feeling is mutual Precious Reader! (btw just had to use that pic above, thanks and acknowledgment to keywordsuggest.org! ]

THE DYING DAYS OF 2017, literally, are when our factory, as a complex, self-contained and autonomous organism, starts to slow down. People start to use up their leave, sick days suddenly start appearing on the time sheet, and even the supervisors / team leaders start zooming off the site early.

To forestall this, right after the Christmas party somewhere mid-December the boss just rosters a skeleton crew until the second week of January, when most of the staff comes out of its month-long hangover and returns to work, battle-ready with hammer and nails (or sword and shield, if you prefer).

I drew the short straw (or “taya” in Filipino playground lingo), not just because I was on leave Christmas last year, but also because the Philippines being so far away, I asked for an extended leave early this year to attend the wedding of my folks’ very first grandchild, my nephew. Except for the statutory holidays, I would be working through the season.

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Bisor calls me up with bad news and good news on Christmas Eve.

I’m gonna ask you to do something shitty and you can say no, but I’ll be grateful if you say yes.

Swallowing hard, I say what is it boss?

I’m gonna ask you to do midnight to seven the 27th, get a little rest, then come back to do the afternoon shift same day, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed.

Arggggggghhhh. And the good news?

Surprise! I finish the week early, Thursday night.

I wanna say “but boss, that’s ONLY BECAUSE I start the week early, diba?” But I decide to save it for a rainy day. (In short, walang good news.)

“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed” is code for PLEASE, and besides as long as I had the requisite nine-hour rest between night shift and afternoon shift, the double shift was legal. And I liked my new bisor. Still, it was a lot to ask of my half-century old body.

All this time, the company had been doing little favors for me, like facilitating my legal paperwork, paying for tradesman training (although the ultimate benefit was theirs), and regularly sweetening the usual goodies like shift allowance, meal allowance, and other stuff that they were legally committed to anyway but improved on. It was time to give back, Noel.

That meant coming back to work midnight after Boxing Day (a holiday), getting a little sleep and then dragging myself back for the afternoon shift. Tough, but someone had to do it.

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LESS THAN 24 HOURS LATER, just as I thought I’d gone above and beyond the call of duty, comes the acting supervisor (not the one who called me earlier) with another request. Could I work till 2 am my last shift of the year (an extra three hours!), keep the packer company and, as long as I was there, keep the factory running?

The whole week before Christmas I was already on night shift by the way. Adding to the unexpected night shift the 27th, working till 2 am was almost like another night shift. Grrr… Guess what I told acting bisor?

Sure. Just tell my shift partner so we’ll finish the same time.

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It wasn’t just the extra production time needed, of course. Health and safety rules here don’t allow single man shifts (except in specific situations), so the packer working alone, admittedly urgent, was a no-no. And I liked the old packing guy, with his easy-going ways and taking pride in his work. How could I say no?

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Most OFWs and migrants say New Zealand is a great place to work, and I’m no exception. Labor laws are followed to the letter, and any doubt in the interpretation of the law or evidence in disputes are usually resolved in favor of the worker, and as long as you don’t have vices and live frugally, the pay is good.

Despite my status as guest worker, I’m treated as a local. I enjoy the same rights as any other worker, get to join a union, receive all the benefits, and get credited with seniority and recognition like anyone else.

I sometimes take these for granted, and I need little wake-up calls like year-end situations to tell me, nakikisama kami sa yo, pero kapag panahon ng gipitan, makisama ka rin sana.

It’s true that NZ needs its migrants to run the engine of growth, mind its dairy farms and care for its aging population, but those of us already here need NZ just as much. To live quality lives, raise our families and fulfill our dreams. We need each other.

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For the record, the shift went well. The packer, a brown guy like me, from the Cook Islands filled his packing orders, packed a record number of pallets of product for the supermarkets, and we all went home happy.

Happy to have done our bit for ourselves, the company, and for New Zealand, our last shift of the year.

Thanks for reading and happy 2018, mabuhay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Release at ginhawa : dodging the latest bullet (again)


thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to turbostaff.co.nz!

[Note: Precious Reader is encouraged to read between the lines in this post, as I can’t be too direct today. Maraming salamat po! ]

FOR PRIVACY REASONS, I can’t tell you exactly what I’m quietly celebrating today, but if you’ve heard my ravings and rantings often enough Precious Reader, you’ll know it’s something that’s very important to my migrant life.

THE FEELING OF BEING LESS WANTED. For most of my decade-long gig with my present employer, every work day has been  spent in the security of my job: not many locals want my job, and even those that do, quickly run out of patience and energy training for it. It has less to do with me than the job itself.

Shift work, manual labor, tediousness of tasks and chores and sheer boredom are the main factors why after a month or two of training, Kiwis (New Zealanders) suddenly decide the job isn’t for them and mumble a quick goodbye, or worse, just stop showing up without so much as a by-your-leave.

Which, for my employer and Your Loyal Blogger (ylbNoel), was fine for as long as I showed up on time, did the job, and never complained. Which is what I’ve done to this day, just that my commitment is no longer enough, and, coupled with the current situation (which I’ll touch on below), just won’t be enough reason for me to continue doing the job at the expense of the local population.

CHANGING VARIABLES. An ideal production team, doing three shifts of 8 hours five days a week, should be composed of six workers. For the longest time, and for as long as I can remember, our team has been staffed by exactly that, six people. The very same shortness of staff that has given me a bit of security in my employment has also created the same insecurity harbored by my employer for the same amount of time, the last 10 years. What if someone decides to leave? What if God forbid, an accident befell one of us and prevented us from returning to work long-term? And so on and so forth.

Which returned Boss Employer to the original question, why weren’t we training more, and recruiting more aggressively? With the unemployment, underemployment and plenitude of workers out there, aversion to my work conditions was simply no longer enough reason to not look for potential workers, even though admittedly it wasn’t the easiest job available.

CURRENT SITUATION. Especially because it has traditionally been known as the party of the workingman, the new party in power, the Labour Party, has made it known from Day One that more jobs, better jobs and higher paying jobs are tops on its agenda. You can say it in so many words like poverty alleviation, improving the quality of life and leveling up the basic services, but it can all be summed up in that four letter word : J-O-B-S.

Now, if you wanna create jobs in the wink of an eye, just like that, without too much grief, what’s the easiest, solutions-based and cheapest formula? You don’t have to be an economist or number cruncher to answer : that’s right, take a hard look at those guest workers, jobs that are held by non-New Zealanders, and for good measure give them that waitaminute-what’re-you-doing-in-my-beloved-New-Zealand-anyways stare?

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Never mind that these guest workers have been doing jobs that most New Zealanders would never even think of doing; never mind that guest workers give their jobs the loyalty, dedication and pride over and above, many times over, and never mind that these guest workers pay taxes, do the best they can, and do their share in running the New Zealand engine of growth, day in and day out, 365 days of the year.

For these generic reasons I would have been the least surprised if it would no longer be business as usual in my personal situation. And for a while, when my paperwork was up in the air, I had a distinct feeling that my days in Aotearoa were numbered.

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My fears turned out to be baseless; a mixture of paranoia and insecurity that my host  country wouldn’t do the right thing. Skills plus lack of local interest in job, given a rational and logical rules-based society equals the privilege of working here. 

Notice I used that word privilege. For all the the pluses and good points I’ve worked hard to create, for all the work ethic and loyalty I’ve shown, it is still my host’s choice on whether or not to let me work here. I know that, and for now I embrace it wholeheartedly.

I may or may not be here forever. But I savor every day.

Mabuhay New Zealand, at mabuhay ang Barangay ng mga Pinoy sa New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!

 

the king is dead, long live the king!


LOOK WHO HAD US FOR LUNCH. Cabeza de Barangay de los Islas Filipinas and Secretary-General elect of FIRST Union, His Excellency Amb Gary Domingo and Kasamang Dennis Maga, just orienting us about the new Labour government. Mabuhay kayo!

[ Paunawa: in my five-plus years of blogging, I’m trying something new Precious Reader, albeit just for this post only. I’ll stop “journalistic pretense” or neutral discussion of the issues coinciding with the arrival of the new Labour Government in New Zealand, and tell it like it is, how these issues affect me personally. it’s one of the few perks of blogging, which is using an exclusively personal perspective, which is after all, how we live life, diba? ]

ESPECIALLY  IN countries with a parliamentary government, change can come in an instant. Call a snap election, regret it for the rest of your life. Just ask Theresa May of the United Kingdom. I’m not 100% sure, but Bill English could’ve taken his sweet time before announcing elections, although in hindsight, the writing was on the wall.

I confess I was one of those who were concerned about the ascension of Jacinda Ardern and the Labour party to power, with a little help from Winston Peters and his friends in the New Zealand First party. The only thing worse than a bad government is fear of the unknown; to what depths  a mismanaged economy will lead us, and the backlash against migrants and guest workers that  new government brings.

On the other side of the coin, there is a bukangliwayway  (sunrise) of new initiatives, new policies and ambitious plans to uplift the standard of living of people, renew the drive to preserve New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand, and other schemes that the previous government somehow lost sight of.

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, you can’t help but give the new custodians of government the chance to do well, even though, as human nature dictates, one resists change, embraces the old comfort zones, and is wary of efforts to change the old ways in favor of the new.

Please believe when I say this, Kabayan or Precious Reader because, even with my cozy comforts in New Zealand, I’m still caught between a rock and a hard place, the devil and the deep blue sea if you want. Sure I’m comfortable with a good job, a great environment and a very peaceful host country. But without getting into too much detail, I have no permanence, no long-term status, nothing I can call truly my own as a guest worker in New Zealand. So if there’s any change, and I say I’m wary about it, you might wanna give my words more weight than usual.

Courtesy of a kabayan who now has the ear of the Labour Party and has been working for both Pinoy OFW and resident workers in New Zealand long before the Labor-led coalition, he personally wanted to clear up a few of the concerns I aired in a previous blog (nakarating sa kanya, wow!):

Raising the minimum wage immediately, and up to $20 by 2020. I’m very lucky to be receiving a little more than the minimum wage of $15.25 an hour, especially since for a 1st World nation, it doesn’t leave much after the very basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. One of the first priorities of the incoming Labor government is raising it towards the goal of the so-called living wage of $20. Many of our kabayan in the South Island are grateful to be working in New Zealand, but are not receiving much more than minimum, if at all.

This sounds partisan, but please don’t believe titans and apologists of big business when they say that kung tataasan nyo ang sahod hanggang di na namin kaya, magsasara na lang kami (If you’re gonna raise minimum wages to unreasonable levels, we might as well shut down the business). In the first place, there is always a balance between keeping your workers happy and keeping the business viable. Wages should always be a factor in maintaining your enterprise, no make that reasonable wages. I don’t want to use my example too much, but our employer negotiates with our site bargaining unit every two years, and encourages non-union members to join, all the better to keep moving forward across the board. It may sound harsh but it’s the reality: a business who can’t pay the legislated wage rate has no business to be in business (and keep using lame puns like this) 🙂

Maintaining realities and priorities in keeping migrant numbers where they are. You will start hearing this from the party in power now, and it makes sense: You can’t stick to a hard number when it comes to net migration. In the first place, it’s the economy, not legislation, that dictates the ultimate number when it comes to how many migrants are needed. Look at Dubai, Singapore and other countries that have readily admitted the migrant reality: a vibrant and growing economy cannot survive without migrant labor. That’s the simple truth. Overall, the two priorities of the incumbents will be tweaking the Skilled Migrant visa pathways (there are many under this general policy) so that only truly qualified migrants continue to come in, and reducing the Student Visa numbers, which admittedly is the area where abuse is rampant. There’s no other way to say that last sentence, nadadamay ang mga Pinoy dahil sa ginagawa ng ibang mga lahi sa student visa, with the cooperation and tolerance of educational institutions here.

Making it easier for those who are already here. I’ve used this phrase often, but I’ll use it again.  There are more than a few guest workers in NZ who have a reasonable expectation of deserving NZ permanent residency, and yet have “fallen between the cracks.” How so ? They are useful enough to be considered skilled, and yet not skilled enough to be considered for residency. They are skilled enough to be granted work visas, and yet aren’t paid enough to be considered for permanent residency. And so on and so forth. Their jobs have disappeared from the so-called long term and short term skills shortage lists, yet strangely enough, continue to be in the rosters of their employers for years and years.

This isn’t fair for them. Because of the Christchurch rebuild, Pinoys (and other migrants) have a chance to get out of their limbo and apply for residency, but shouldn’t this privilege be granted to all who deserve it, New Zealand-wide? Pinoys are highly valued, dependable and loyal workers who in many cases have worked for their bosses, faithfully consistently, and without fail. Labour has made the right noises in this direction, and this will give many kabayan all over New Zealand, this blogger included, a big sigh of relief.

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I have to give credit to the new Labour Government, specifically my kabayan source who so rapidly told me it’s not all doom and gloom under the new order. Thank you very much Ginoong Dennis Maga, Secretary General-elect of the FIRST Union, and an acknowledged champion for workers rights, not just Pinoys, but everyone who works an honest 8 hours a day in Aotearoa. Thanks too Your Excellency Ambassador Gary Domingo for gamely providing such a filling lunch in the process!  Mabuhay kayo!

And thanks kabayan and friends for reading!

kung bakit dehado ang mga bisitang obrerong Pinoy sa pamahalaang NZ Labour*


it’s becoming harder and harder. Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to thefifthstate.com.au!

IN A PERFECT WORLD, Pinoy guest workers in New Zealand will continue to receive the benefit of the doubt on whether or not they are still needed in the country,  potential applicants will continue to be invited to apply for permanent resident status, and the  parent sibling and other categories under the Family Category visa pathways will soon be reinstated, much to the relief of Pinoy families of both sides of the Philippines – New Zealand divide.

In the land of reality, however, you and I live with the cold, hard facts:  the crow’s feathers will whiten (pagputi ng uwak) before the closed visa pathways will be reopened, any guest workers who’ve fallen behind when the gates were shut will probably stay there under a Labour Government, and the general climate for Pinoy guest workers from today will get a lot worse before it gets any better.

[ This is not professional opinion, just a tiny voice in the roaring wilderness, not being negative but putting up a wet finger to gauge the general direction of the wind. Napag-uusapan lang po. ]

Unless you were in a cave, comatose or hiding under a great big rock, you probably heard that last Thursday the 19th, the New Zealand First party, holders of 7% of the party vote, gave its support to the New Zealand Labour Party, which won around 35% of the seats in NZ Parliament. Combined with the Greens party votes, it was (barely) enough to hold a majority, which gave Jacinda Ardern and the NZ Labour Party its first taste of power in eight years.

By itself it doesn’t mean anything, but (1) a commitment to cut student and work visas by 25,000 to 30,000, (2) a general policy to promote jobs for New Zealanders (a motherhood statement but one that Labour will be held to for sure) and (3) the focus on reducing unemployment, reducing people on the benefit and easing underemployment all point to stress and unease for Pinoy guest workers in NZ.

Let me tell you why:

Caught between the cracks. Under the Essential Skills work visa program, if an employer (1) can’t find qualified locals to work in a particular job or position, (2), finds it impractical to train New Zealanders for said position, (3) can find suitable guest workers for that position, then a Work Visa can be issued to a non-New Zealander.

Many kabayan have gotten jobs this way. It is reasonable to expect them, after a while, to be eligible or qualified to be permament residents especially if their employers continue to hire them, encourage them to apply for another work visa, or even broach the idea of permanent residence in the future.

However, to be invited to apply for permanent residence, the kabayan must qualify under specific Resident Visa pathways, two of which (there may be others, but I don’t know about them) are the Short and Long-Term Skills Shortage List, or the Work To Residence Program. These pathways are independent of the Work Visa program and require different evidence from what the Essential Skills Work Visa require.

Now, under a Labour-led coalition government, where the cutting of migrant jobs and locals-centered job generation is the centerpiece policy, do you think any Pinoys holding work visas can expect a friendlier visa regime? As my wife Mahal sez, mas malabo pa sa sabaw ng pusit.

Remuneration bands. Now, shortly before the elections, the National Party government decided to tweak the immigration policy in a vague, not to mention belated attempt to win “pogi points” (brownie points) from the New Zealand public. Among the measures were the introduction of “remuneration bands” to determine if a guest worker was skilled enough to qualify for future residency. Below a certain amount ($47,000 annually I think) you were considered unskilled. Earn in a certain range ($47,001 to $70,000), you were considered mid-skilled. Anything above a certain amount, and you were considered highly-skilled, and automatically qualified for residency.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this kabayan, but under the special Dairy Worker visa pathway in the South Island, some of our countrymen are already practically running the farms for their employers, from sunup to sundown. Their bosses love them for accepting jobs Kiwis won’t take, love them for dedication, and love them for turning up to work every single day of the year.

But you know why else their employers love them? Because our kabayan are willing to work for wages New Zealanders won’t even consider in easy jobs (farming is definitely not easy), much less in physically and mentally challenging roles. This same reasonable, bargain-basement rates that Pinoys are willing to work for are the same “remuneration bands” that will NEVER let them get within a kilometer of becoming NZ permanent residents. Sad but true.

Now, do you think anything will change in a Labour government? That crow (uwak) better get some serious reading material before it thinks it will become a dove (kalapati).

And lastly . . .

temporarily closing Parent Category. Late last year, as a means of putting its finger in the dike against overwhelming permanent residence applications, Immigration New Zealand (the government office issuing resident visas) temporarily put on hold Parent Category Visas, where obviously parents of permanent residents, three years after the latter were granted resident status, could apply for residency themselves. Word was, anytime next year, the Parent Category could and would be reinstated,

But that was under a National government. Everything changes with a change of government, that’s as clear as day. It’s becoming a tiresome refrain, but under a Labour-led coalition government, can you expect an immigrant and migrant-friendly policy, to the extent of honoring commitments of the previous administration? As they say, all bets are off. Another nice way of saying it would be it’s a very fluid situation, especially for kabayan who haven’t started anything application-wise.  I wish I could be more positive, but the reality is anything but.

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You’ve probably noticed this Precious Reader, but this is more than just dispassionate discussion for me. Blogging is an intensely personal endeavor, whether it’s about a hobby, your religion, or ideology. For me, it’s just about my life, experiences and my gut feel about certain things. It should be obvious why I have strong views about this particular issue, but telling you now would color your own views further, about the issue and about me (for sure, there are always two sides to every issue, I concede). Maybe next time.

Suffice it to say now that for a lot of us kabayan in Aoteroa, these are uncertain times.

thanks for reading, mabuhay!

*or “why it’s against the odds for Pinoy guest workers in a Labour-led government”

 

the dirty little secret of many pinoy communities


[ Thank you and acknowledgment to YouTube poster Maypagasa for use of the video! ]

BEFORE ANY FURTHER, may I qualify that statement above, which I’ll expand into the rest of the blog, kabayan?

On the whole, and in general, Filipinos are kind, decent and caring people, who get along with anybody and everybody everywhere all over the world, with their own kind but especially among people of other races and nationalities. So much so that bukod tangi, in prosperous cities, countries, or regions where professionals, tradesmen and workers from all nations accumulate, Filipinos are popular, well-known and requested either as co-workers, colleagues or employees.

Our very own Ambassador to New Zealand His Excellency Jesus Gary Domingo likened us to “a thousand suns” that cannot shine in unison but on their own, without other Filipinos around, in order to be fully appreciated.

The “dirty little secret” refers to the lack of unity or organization among Filipinos in some if not most migrant and overseas communities, sometimes to the point of being a disadvantage to the kabayan in these communities who need it the most.

*****          *****          *****

To be sure, there will always be Pinoy orgs, clubs, interest groups anywhere abroad. Put two or three of our countrymen (women) together and you can be sure there will be talk of registering that group, for tax, financial assistance or any advantage whatsoever.

A recently departed embassy official told me that in one of her deployments in the developed world, there were 500,000 ethnic Filipinos either born in the Philippines or of Filipino descent.  Out of this massive number, there were about 5000 Filipino organizations, all of them legal entities, that their embassy dealt with regularly. So you can imagine the logistical work needed to get all of the orgs (not to mention their members!) on the same page, especially when a big project was in the works.

But that’s just one example, one situation. Imagine all over the world, Filipino communities active in their own productive lives, wanting to do the right thing for themselves and others, but not being all that effective as a group, whether strictly as Filipinos or with others. You can hazard a few intelligent guesses for this, but I’ll enumerate them for you kabayan:

Specific interest groups, usually driven by one or two personalities. You know the type. A natural leader, usually driven in his or her desire to do good, being the driving force and providing nearly all the energy behind an organization. The others are there just for the ride, the free lunches and maybe there’s something in it for them. I hate to sound jaded and pessimist, but that’s the way it goes, business organizations or otherwise. Remember Pareto’s rule, where 20% of the group does 80% of the work? That applies to most Pinoy clubs, groups or organizations.

Now what happens is a lot of groups like these ultimately burn themselves out, with a tragically short shelf life. Either the leader himself or herself gets tired, because of the failure to see that from the very start it should’ve been a team effort, or the other members (usually part of the leadership) see that the group agenda is driven by one person only. And why not? because that one person does all the work  🙂

In many cases also, Pinoy groups are founded on the common denominator/s of religion, business goals or objectives (seeking funding or deals as a single entity), or in preparation for a Pinoy-themed event (a sports fest, a cultural event, what have you). Have you ever heard of a Pinoy group formed for the general welfare of Pinoys in that community? I mean, an organization or pangkat formed for Pinoys, purely for fostering the interest of Pinoys in general? Tell me about it if you have, because I for sure haven’t.

Intramurals and intrigues. Now because in almost every Pinoy group, leadership and authority is centered in one or two individuals, power tends to stay there and perpetuate itself. Whatever the good intentions or lofty goals of the organization, as the latter evolves, membership increases and, most importantly, dinero starts to materialize, it becomes serious business (literally). It’s no longer a mom-and -pop affair : talk of allowances, per diem during meetings and how to allocate funding becomes an intensely debated topic or topics. Where before members would volunteer their services and expertise for free, now a little appreciation (of course, in the form of a little cash) becomes part of the discussion. Grumblings start to surface about how certain group policies are forgotten, how personalities get in the way, and how some members can no longer work with each other, on issues that have nothing to do with the group itself.

Before long, splinter groups emerge, the group shatters into pieces, and chaos reigns. If you think this kind of thing happens back home in the Philippines, think again kabayan, because I’ve heard it happen in Pinoy clubs all over the world, in infinite situations and countless reincarnations. Only the lyrics change, but the song remains the same throughout.

Politics. Just that one dirty word will tell you how brittle all organizations are in and out of the Philippines, no matter how pure and well-meaning the motives at the start. I refer not just to political parties but to how politically motivated intentions start to infect the friendships and united efforts of the Pinoy clubs and in the end, twist and mangle the original mission statement so much that the founders end up entirely losing sight of what they set out to do.

It doesn’t matter if one particular party or group is in the right or if another is totally in the wrong. Most of Filipino politics is personality-driven anyway, with party membership and principles a meaningless device to be used at one’s convenience. When political affiliation based on the party or personality in power (back in the homeland) starts to influence the life of the Pinoy org, then you can kiss it goodbye. It can no longer function healthily, and before long people will start to leave. That’s the reality, and it will never change. The tragedy is, politically motivated Pinoys in and out of the organizations or clubs think they are doing what is best for the group, and end up destroying it. Tsk tsk tsk, sayang lang.

Kabayan please don’t think I refer in particular to one Pinoy community or another, specially in my adopted country. As far as I know, this phenonenon persists everywhere there are Pinoys, across the seven seas. So if we are proud of our good points as Filipinos, we should also strive to do better, as regards our shortcomings.

Key words there. Strive to do better. There’s always room for improvement.

Thanks for reading, Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

 

 

what pinoys won’t tell you about pinoys


thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to eRepublik.com!

ALTHOUGH THERE IS one other Asian on our work site now (an Indian, in the engineering team), and maybe because the latter is still quite new, at work I’m usually the subject of Asian jokes and slightly race-related remarks, a fact of life I’ve openly embraced since I started working in New Zealand. Because of this, and also due to my good-natured friendliness and approachability, I get along with everybody at work. it wouldn’t be an exaggeration for me to say i’m probably the most popular staff member on site.

I wear my being Filipino on my sleeve, broach my “Pinoyness” as a subject every time an opportunity presents, and always take time to ask about any kind of personal interaction my colleagues might have with other Filipinos, and ask if it reflects positively on us. It usually ends up in a joke or anecdote, which I laugh at, in an easy attempt to make fun of myself. It nearly always lets others know they can laugh with me instead of laughing at me, which is alright in any case.

What most of my workmates don’t always realize is that like any other race in the human community, Filipinos have a good side and a bad side. We like to show our “presentable” face to the rest of the world, while naively pretending our warts and zits are invisible. Yes we are likeable, we like to think, but there are annoying aspects of our character that have become so predictable that they are just a part of our Pinoyness as our food, our skin pigment and our facility in English. These are just a few that we’re not proud of, but which our non-Pinoy neighbors are slowly beginning to discern:

Pinoys are notorious gossips. We are so gossipy and loose-lipped about our fellowmen (and women) that we hardly use the term chismoso (and chismosa) anymore, it’s such a natural thing to talk about the personal lives of other people, under the dismissive phrase napag-uusapan lang naman (we’re just discussing it in passing, or “by the way”). It’s almost as if we as Filipinos are kind and decent in every other away except in the way we trash other people who have the misfortune of not being around, and therefore unable to defend themselves when their personal lives are being discussed.

I’m no saint or angel just because I condemn this very Pinoy behavior. In fact, when I don’t watch myself, I do it without even realizing it, until I sit back after a conversation and think about, now what if instead of talking about Person A with Person B (in the most graphic detail possible) without a second thought, Person B was discussing with A about me? How would I feel?

I’m also not saying that people from other countries don’t do it, especially since the people I enjoy gossipy talk with are New Zealanders, Brits, fellow Asians, etc. But because I know my own kind, I know we are above the norm in shaming our kabayan behind their backs. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

“Keeping up with the Joneses”. The Urban Dictionary defines this phrase as “to strive beyond one’s means to keep up socially and financially with others in one’s social circle or neighborhood.” It can cover any object, trivial or massive, from buying a Fitbit sports watch to starting an entire property makeover just to show your neighbors, friends and colleagues that whatever they do, you can do just as well or better.

If you use this to do better in life, improve your situation or help you reach goals in your career, relationships and community, why not, diba? An example is to take out a student loan to join your friends enrolling in a masteral or postgraduate course.  Trouble is many of us Filipinos , upon discovering the travel, purchase or party plans of their peers, borrow money or overextend themselves just to keep up with the same. Maxing out the credit line during family weddings, town fiestas and holidays are nothing new to us, but we always have to outdo ourselves from previous gastusan (spending sprees) just to comply with the saying, para wala silang masabi (so they can’t complain). We would rather cope with material hardship and eternal debt than not keep up with appearances. Recently, Filipinos have matured in this respect, but old habits die hard.

Crab mentality. This is subject of much debate and discussion, but in my experience Pinoys do not support each other whenever one of their own is on the fast track towards success and achievement,  as compared to other nationalities (in my very limited perspective, of course). Hindi naman ito strictly crab mentality, but when you’re not happy for kabayan, what are you then? Hardly any room for being neutral here.

Among Chinese, when a member of their community is running for office, being recognized for special achievement in their profession, in the arts, or civic duty, the whole universe of ethnic Chinese (whether from the mainland, Taiwan or Hongkong) rallies behind him as a brother or sister. When a Thai, Vietnamese or Southeast Asian opens a business, you can be sure it will receive the patronage of their countrymen. I’m not so sure about parallels in the Filipino community. More so in the international sphere, when Pinoys up for high positions, awards and recognition get less than the support they so richly deserve, from kabayan and the kabayan community.

I may be generalizing, but would you disagree with my stinging assessments? On the whole, Pinoys are appreciated, across the board, by different races. It’s time that we start, on the one hand, taking a long hard look at ourselves, and on the other, start appreciating ourselves.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!