off morning shift till further notice

grumpy cat

[ Paunawa : Pasensya na to anyone I haven’t kept in touch with, I think in light of recent events (please see below), it’s more or less self-explanatory, hehehe, just my way of getting you to read further.  It’s been a glorious last few weeks here in Wellington NZ, thank God for a beautiful summer after an awesome January back home in the Philippines! ]

YOU AND I Precious Reader have, oftener than not, read enough internet articles, findings and correlations not to know that sleeping regular hours at the right time, meaning at nighttime, is part of healthy living.

You can burn the midnight oil for a time, turn your body clock inside out for a while, and sleep and wake like a vampire for only so long, but it’s not good for you.

There are many reasons for this, part of which is the hundred-thousand-year-old circadian rhythm that homo sapiens sapiens has established as part of normal living. There’s also the very basic bodily need for ultra-violet rays from sunshine, and then maybe not as essentially the rest that is best taken in darkness.

But there are exceptions.  People working in call centers (or business process outsourcing centers) get used to working in the dead of night and sleeping in brightest day.  Security guards are wide awake with the kuliglig and paniki and take breakfast at twilight.  And so on and so forth.  But if you’re like me, and I’m guessing you are, you start best at the crack of dawn and say beddy-bye just before the clock strikes twelve.

The (un)happy compromise is to work twilight shift.  You start later than most people, in fact when most people are already starting to leave work, and log out when some people are already snoring.  But this is better than working the graveyard shift, when there’s nobody awake except you and you try to sleep when the sun is scorching behind the drapes and curtains.

*****     *****     *****

I’ve always been a team player at work, especially since because of my migrant status locals and residents (if any are available) may potentially be given preference in job selection.   But rotating shifts (nights, mornings and twilight shifts before returning to nights, mornings, etc) has always been part of the deal, using the philosophy that everyone gets their turn at the dreaded night shift.

Unfortunately, one of the persons in our three-man rotation (the factory we operate needs to run 24 hours 5 days a week) is also our team leader, who needs extra training for planning our production schedules for the week, using the SAP software that no management team seems to be able to survive without, and other earth-shaking, indispensable management stuff.  Because the training can only be conducted during regular office hours, by default Your Loyal Kabayan and the other guy (by coincidence, also a migrant, albeit a former one) have drawn the short straws.  Between the two of us, we share the honor of doing twilight and night shifts for the next few months, or until our team leader finishes his team leader training, whichever comes last. 😦

Weytaminit, kapeng mainit.  Whatever happened to rotating shifts, the right to a morning shift every third week, and the company’s concern for too many night shifts not good for the health?  Well, in the name of production, keeping the conveyor (as in product conveyor) running, and keeping the customer happy, some things have to be sacrificed and fall by the wayside.  For the time being.  In the hierarchy of priorities, starting from the client’s requirements, to the employer’s requirements, to the worker’s requirements, which do you think are the easiest to compromise?

*****     *****     *****

So that’s the way it’s gonna be.  Never mind that I don’t get to watch prime time for a while (I’ll be sleeping till a half-hour before going to work).  Never mind that I won’t have time to do the nasty with Mahal for a while (I’ll either be too tired or too hyper to do so).  And never mind that I’ll have zero social life for a while (not that I’ve had much of  a social life).  When you’re on the bottom of the totem pole, especially when you’re a migrant, you don’t have much of a say on what you do, or how you do it.  For now, just be lucky you’re working where you’re working, that you’re working at all, and that, shift hours aside, you’re able to cope with the daily pressures and stresses.

For now.

Thanks for reading!

why Ms Anita Mansell is my favorite Kinoy*

Kabayan and QSM awardee Anita N Mansell walks in their shoes.

Kabayan and QSM awardee Anita N Mansell walks in their shoes.

[Note : As always, this post about this remarkable person is long overdue.  Thanks to Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, Ms Meia Lopez, and of course Ms Anita Mansell for the allowing the reposting of this article and Mr Craig Phillips for graciously allowing use of the photo.  Please visit the latest issue of KABAYAN Magazine (where the original article was published), the only newsmagazine of the Wellington Filipino community, at, advance Merry Christmas to everyone! ]

THIRTY-ONE YEARS ago, we can’t be 100% sure, but Anita Nadera arrived in Wellington New Zealand on a typically windy, overcast day.  The migrant in her conditioned her to prepare for anything and everything, and it would be her constant source of strength for years and years.  It helped her adjust to the vastly alien life of being a new New Zealander, but it also helped her to be strong for her brethren, other new migrants.

Thirty-one years later, on another typically windy, overcast Wellington day, Anita Mansell (she has been happily married since then) she looks back with much introspection on half a lifetime of service and volunteerism.

She refuses to choose highlights in her career as a volunteer, and we believe her because she doesn’t even want to be called such, only someone who has been there for others.  She wasn’t a pioneer with the Mabuhay Filipino Association, but she might as well have been.  She joined a year after the Society was conceived, and she has not stopped helping newcomers, refugees and migrants first get settled in (physically and figuratively), then finding out her wards’ particular area of difficulty in adjusting.  Whether it would be the language barrier, getting around or finding a job, Anita would be there, and she didn’t limit herself to helping kabayan only.  Southeast Asians, South Asians, Middle Easterns, it didn’t matter to Anita as long as you needed help.

She believes that better-adjusted migrants are better able to show their pride in their cultures, showing her Kiwi hosts our native performing arts could help them better understand us.  Anita became more involved in both the Wellington International Filipino Society and the Hutt Multicultural Council, where Anita served as vice-president.
Time flew by so quickly that before Anita and her crew realised it, they had helped and eased into New Zealand society scores and scores of migrant families via the simplest of formulae : because she was a former migrant herself, she knew how it was to walk in their shoes.
Almost as an afterthought when asked how she had spent so much time in these migrant aid groups, she said : helping people is my passion.
In 2011 no less than the New Zealand Government, represented by the Governor General himself, conferred on our kabayan Anita the Queen’s Service Medal in recognition of her sterling efforts serving both the Filipino and migrant communities the last three decades.
Only two other Filipinos have received this honor, but Anita says the award itself is but a confirmation of the work she has done since she arrived in New Zealand, as a volunteer where the opportunity to help others is its own reward.
Inspiring words from the Cebuana migrant who jumped into New Zealand on that fateful windy day in Wellington 31 years ago with stars in her eyes, and ended up dedicating her life to helping others.
*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 36 of the last work week of summer

A pleasant surprise : "Noel : thank you for changing your hours and working O.T. (overtime) to get the retail (packer) up and running the last few weeks -Ben (obviously the supervisor)"  Awww..

A pleasant surprise : “Noel : thank you for changing your hours and working O.T. (overtime) to get the retail (packer) up and running. -Ben (obviously the supervisor) On top are two supermarket vouchers totalling $50. Awww..

THROUGHOUT HIS professional life, Dad was/is a deskbound, adding machine-holstered white-collar worker, but he was always blue-collar in attitude and approached work the way a wage-paid laborer did.  Day in and day out he answered the call, and only the most extreme reason could keep him from work.  Showing up everyday and on time shows you care for your job, he said in so many words.  It didn’t matter how high or low you were on the totem pole, if you were there ready and good to go, ready for your mission, then the boss looked good, and if the boss looked good, then oftener than not, things would look good for you.

It was just as well for me when I carried on with that work ethic in New Zealand where I now live and work, ’cause it seemed that in blue-collar Wellington, where the luck of the draw landed me, everyone who liked his job (and lots of those who didn’t) showed up for work every day that the Lord made (or bawat araw na ginawa ng Diyos, if you like), 15 minutes before the bell rang, and bright and cheery for work.

Bright and cheery also included being battle-ready for anything new on the menu, meaning if training or upskilling was available, you grabbed the offer, because usually that meant new machinery or new positions were emerging in the workplace.  On the record nothing would be taken against you if you refused, but the boss would remember the next time you needed a favor or when advancement was appearing, and likelier than not you wouldn’t be recommended.

So work ethic and “optional training” had combined to give me the position of backup operator on the brand-new packing machine.  Theoretically, as long as I was dependable and a third shift was needed, I was their man.  Unfortunately, theory turned into reality when one of the regular packers accepted a supervisor’s job in his hometown’s winery, an irresistible prospect for him, and because of staffing issues the packing machine quickly fell 200 man-hours behind based on a constantly increasing order schedule.

To truncate a potentially longish story, I was transferred from my regular department to packing, on a 10-hour 0500 to 1500 shift to make up for lost hours.  Before the end of the second day the site manager decided that even that wasn’t enough, and asked the packing supervisor to ask me if I could change from morning/afternoon shift to the graveyard shift.  Before even thinking, and undoubtedly because of Pinoy pakisama I just said “sure why not?”  After all, the week was almost over, and the overtime money couldn’t hurt.

Famous last words.

It's a different model, but this is what the packer looks like

It’s a different model, but this is what the packer looks like

Problem is, 12 hours during the night is a bit different from 12 hours during the day.  The lack of sunlight and daytime warmth makes the hours stretch endlessly, and the lack of human company stretches same even longer.  It helps that you keep going round and round a machine roughly 10 square meters in area, and constantly feed it paper bags, glue and plastic rolls for the bag bundler oven.  You also weigh product regularly and never stop monitoring the various conveyors, metal detector, bundle labeller and robot palletizer.

In short, while the work is tedious and wears on your limbs, if you do your work, you almost never get sleepy.  The machine was notorious for kinks on any or all of its various innards, but because the catchup production was a high priority, the site manager actually gave me the round-the-clock assistance of the plant engineer, unheard of before she thought of doing it.

And all this, heading headfirst into the biting wind of autumn.  Summer was long gone and on annual leave.

***               ***               ***

The first night was the hardest, because jams on the conveyor were constantly holding up production.  The scale inside the packing machine needed at least one recalibration, and the metal detector was either too sensitive or not sensitive enough.  But as soon as the different machines settled in, production was smooth for the rest of the night.

This is what the robot palletizer looks like.  Ours has a cage around it, because you don't want to be ANYWHERE near it when it's working;  one hit and you're a goner. :(

This is what the robot palletizer looks like. Ours has a cage around it, because you don’t want to be ANYWHERE near it when it’s working; one hit and you’re a goner. 😦

The robot palletizer was another matter.  Bundled product coming into the final conveyor must be exactly in the same place every time, otherwise the bundles don’t get piled up correctly and the robot must be reset.  The robot palletizer is exactly what it sounds a metal arm that scoops up anything you want and depending on the pattern you program into it, piles up neat piles of bundles all night long.  The bundles can’t be too fat or too thin, the shrink-wrap plastic at just the right temperature so it won’t be too hard or too soft for the robot to pick it up neatly.

So as you can see, I had plenty of things to occupy me, and on pure adrenalin and healthy stress, I hardly even had the time to sit and have a cup of tea.  It was only my forklift guy and the engineer who reminded me to take the breaks before I realized it was the crack of dawn.

This went on for two more days, and the next week was a “regular” shift schedule of 10 hours, which I didn’t mind too much because I had the advantage of day shift.

Two weeks later, I realized how important the 24/7 shifts were when the supervisor sent me a thank you note (with the blessing of the site manager), and a $50 supermarket voucher.  Suddenly the cold and tedious nights of those shifts just became a distant memory.

Now, on to just another week of night shifts to finish…

Thanks for reading!

sweets for my sweets

IMG_0038[Note : Thank you so much George, Hazel, Kimmy and Hannah from Auckland for your outstanding and thoughtful generosity; your brother/brother-in-law, sister-in-law/tita, nephews/cousins, niece/cousin are all so grateful for your gifts (shown above) from Auckland all the way to Wellington!  Maraming maraming salamat po and please hug and kiss all our rellies back home in Manila!  Advance Maligayang Pasko to all our kabayan in New Zealand, the Philippines and the rest of the OFW and migrant world! ]

THE TOPIC/S of the day are our kabayan’s outstanding performances in this year’s beauty pageants, and the despicable act of a political scion having security guards arrested just for doing their job chillingly reminiscent of Martial Law days, but the urgency now tends to a more personal topic, and one hopefully that you can help me with.

You see, for the first time in years and years, I have a little barya set aside for gifts for my loved ones.   The usual austere mood and logistics dictate that I can only think of gifts for my immediate kin, but it is still a formidable task.  I have little excuse not to think of them, they have after all been so nice and thoughtful to me this year.

More than once I saw sentiments like this posted in social networks like Facebook (actually FB is the only network I’m on) : This year I decided to have a low profile Christmas, thinking of those who can’t even have a decent celebration in their own homes, those who are still in the painful process of recovering from recent tragedies….  I have no gifts nor cards to send to family and friends….for there are others who need them (or their equivalent ) more. But rest assured, you’re always in my thoughts and prayers… Happy holidays, everyone!

I felt something similar to the above, but I JUST HAVE to send a token of appreciation to the people mentioned, especially since I hadn’t done so for so long.  Mahal, who is my caregiver (I’m cranky and creaky when I’m tired and hungry, which is often), driver, cook, muse, lover and everything else in my life; Panganay, who reminds me of more adventurous and difficult times in the distant past; Ganda, who is the light of my life and remains as malambing as the time she was in diapers; and Bunso, whose energy and inspiration never fail to brighten my day.

***         ***         ***

I have not had an ideal relationship with Panganay.  For a significant block of his pre-adolescence I was occupied with problems of my own, and ultimately he, among his siblings, bore the brunt of my neglect and immaturity. We have both made attempts (in varying intensities) to repair our relationship, but it hasn’t been an easy task.

It’s part of human nature to use Christmas and other happy occasions to improve our relationship, and as naively as an old-school father can get, I have taken the time to meet Panganay and his new girlfriend.  This time with one hand tightly clutching my pamasko and the other holding Mahal’s arm, I’m hoping that the holidays can help us form a bond that can only strengthen in time.

***               ***               ***

Ganda has always been sweet and solicitous of her father, even in our leaner, bleaker days.  I remember coming home from NZ once, and she was so afraid I would leave the next day before she woke up, that she insisted on sleeping next to me and tightly clutching my hand until she fell asleep.  Needless to say, by the time she woke up, my hand was no longer there.

Ganda is fully adult now, mature for her age as she ever was, but she still worries for me like she did before.  Too tired, too wet, too hungry and now too old, she never ceases to show her concern and ask if I’m these things, and therefore she never ceases to amaze me.  Even when I ask her if I she needs extra funds for whatever, she almost always declines, and we can only show her some hospitality by treating her and hey boyfriend to a little lunch, dinner or merienda.

YES, her boyfriend, and they have been together for a year now.  Beyond the usual expectations and keeping my hopes up, he has been the perfect gentleman and has shown us every courtesy and concern that a Pinoy boyfriend can give.  THAT is enough for me for now, and obviously he is more than a Christmas gift for Ganda to treasure.

I have to think long and hard before giving Ganda a nice little gift, for not  only have I not given her much for some time now, she also truly deserves one, for all the reasons there can be.

***               ***               ***

Bunso is, to put it bluntly, having the best time of his life in New Zealand.  His special circumstances would not allow him to fully enjoy himself back home, but now he has the freedom, friends and supportive family in his new home away from home, Wellington.  Along the way he has shown remarkable development in his attitude, personality and smarts.   He has truly come into his own.

I honestly don’t know what to give him for Christmas, because he is just starting to discover himself.  He has combined two incredible traits, and I don’t say this just because I’m his dad : he is unselfish, and he is thoughtful.  As a son, brother, friend and colleague, he is a gift to everyone.

***               ***               ***

It’s hard to put into words what Mahal is to me, so I won’t even try : she is everything to me.  So much so that giving her a gift this gift-giving season is truly a challenge.  Fortunately, she has helped me : inasmuch as December is Christmas and our anniversary month AND her birthday, she has offered to allow me to consolidate all these gifts into one, as long as it’s special.

Can you help me think of a truly special gift for her?

Thanks for reading!

signs that the apocalypse is upon us

[Note : thanks to Mr Mikey Bustos for this gem, too funny not to share.  Everything else is self-explanatory.  Congrats to both Ganda and Bunso for making it to the University of Victoria at Wellington ! Cringe alert : a bit of adult content below, forewarned is forearmed. 🙂 ]

I’M VERY sorry, paumanhin po to my countrymen and women, that rather misleading title above should’ve read signs that old age (or late middle age) is upon us, but since the two titles roughly approximate each other, I’ve decided to use it.  Just to prove to you that I’m still alive and kicking, still lurking around the neighborhood and still willing to share with you what I hope are interesting things that happen to me, I’m posting a blog despite it being a Friday afternoon, one of the sweetest and meatiest portions of the weekend and despite the fact that it’s prime time for Word Battle my new favorite game, when 8-player tournaments are there for the taking.

And because I’m such an impulsive and impetuous creature, I just want to tell you something that just happened to me in recent days but which has made me pause and realize that I’m well on my way to middle age-hood and almost on the brink of senior citizen-hood, not that I’m embracing it.  It’s just a fact of life that I need to acknowledge and what better way than to tell you Dear Reader about it?

Means, medians and averages.  It wasn’t long ago that in almost any gathering or random sampling of humanity, I would find myself in the lowest percentile of age groups, if not the youngest in the group.  It wasn’t too surprising, because to begin with I wasn’t that old and the people I found myself with were usually my superiors and seniors at work.

Slowly though, the tide has begun to change.  Co-parents, colleagues and contemporaries became juniors, younger workmates and finally friends of children and of Mahal, who I don’t need to tell you is more than a little younger than me.

Just this morning, I shuddered to realize that in a first aid course I needed to attend, I was no less than the elder statesman in the class of 13.  There were one or two fortysomethings but I could tell that I was considerably older than them. Two or three were in their 30s and all the rest were in their roaring twenties, or (yikes) younger.  There was even a pair of teen-agers who were starting work early.  I’m not sure if they were aware of this unappealing fact, but I’m not deluding myself, I was the only one raising my hand to speak and when the course was over, I was almost surely the only one who thanked the trainor for her effort.  Old school, indeed.

Sleeping in.  I’ve also recently realized that because of force of habit, because of the dire consequences of tardiness at work, and maybe because I’ve heard that as you age, you need progressively less hours of sleep, it’s been harder and harder for me to sleep in, or wake up late on weekends and off days.  I used to be a master at doing it, sleeping as much as I pleased, 10, 12, 14 hours or even straight through breakfast lunch and afternoon merienda.  I knew I had slept through time zones when there were two People’s Journal editions to read through (or Abante and Abante Tonite, if that’s your pleasure) and my stomach growled how badly it missed 2+ meals.  But when you’re young and burn both ends of the candle, sleep is nearly as important as sustenance.

Not these days though.  The uncertainties of old age and preparing prescription money for all those aches and pains of your twilight years make the wages of every working day necessary, and the reality is you need both rest and nutrition.  Besides, like I said earlier, I can no longer sleep too long, as I either need to wake up for work, or the long years of strictly scheduled work weeks have crept into the weekends.  Whatever day of the calendar, I can’t stay in bed after half-past seven.  Nor can I stay awake much after midnight.  It’s a body clock that I fear will stay with me till the day I retire, but hopefully not much longer.

Is woohoo still a woohoo?  I can’t recall the last time this happened.  Recently, a night that Mahal and I set aside for a woohoo (daughter Ganda’s word for doing the nasty, taken from the video game The Sims), said event was suddenly postponed, as Mahal begged off for fatigue reasons.  I sulked and made tampo, but deep down ( I didn’t want to tell her) that I was actually just as, if not more tired than she was.  Not wanting to appear relieved, I actually insisted that we keep the schedule, but at the last moment conceded that her precious rest was a greater priority.

Which was just as well, because I still wasn’t ready to admit to myself that rest could ever be more important than sex.  The day I pass up a woohoo for a bit of shuteye is the day I start getting old, and that unwavering self-belief, I hope, stays till my dying day. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

pagod puyat & ginaw challenge d pinoy worker, but d appreciation is appreciated

I wasn't even around when the token of appreciation was given. huhuhu :(

I wasn’t even around when the token of appreciation was given. huhuhu 😦

[Note : sorry for the long title, and sincerest condolences to the family of Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, your Tatay looks over you fondly and with love! ]

AS ALWAYS, I tip-tap the words almost as they come out of this addled and burned-out brain, with as little filtering as possible, it is a GP-blog after all.  To be as candid and as real as it gets is the raison d’etre for filling the blanks in this blog service, as important as recording things for my personal posterity and the therapy it affords Your Loyal Blogger.  (By the way, if ever you’re taken by the aesthetics and workings of this blog site, 99% of it is possible thanks to the WordPress creators, admins and staff, woohoohoo; I’m only responsible for the frail content, and everything’s for free, too, perfect for the Pinoy/Asian in those wanting to start their own blogs, it’s never too late! )

But I just want to tell you how tired I was after nearly two weeks of mostly 12-hour shifts, something I hadn’t experienced as far as I can remember five-plus years as a New Zealand worker.  Before anything else, it was the first time since forever that there was no down time almost throughout the shift.  Now, anyone who’s worked in a job knows that there are busy times and there are down times, no matter where or what you do.

Because there was extra volume coming out of the machines (they’re called dust-collectors) getting rid of the waste product that naturally gets extracted from the raw material, I had to transport the bins containing them to a receiving area some 50 meters away, roughly once every half-hour.  Multiply this by the number of hours in the shift, and you get the idea.

But that’s not all.  More tests, more checks, more adjustments to the water (an essential part of the substance before it’s transformed into the final usable commodity ), more cleaning, and just about more of everything that we usually do.  And over a longer period of time.

In addition, SuperBisor who I actually prefer working with over any other shift boss, was climbing up the corporate ladder and was now attending site meetings and production meetings, for only a few minutes at a time of course.  His level of vigilance would not allow the factory to go unmonitored even for a few minutes, so it was up to me to step up and pinch-hit for him, even though he was only meters away from the machinery.

I knew the intensity of the cold, springtime shifts were getting to me, because in usual hectic days, all I would need to stay alert and keep up with the pace was a glass of water to hydrate and grease my tubes.  It really does wonders to your system when you drink an extra glass of water whenever and wherever, I thought it was an internet fad, but it’s not.

The water was still helping, but only for a while.  A second trick I’m used to doing when my batteries are flat is getting a coffee/sugar rush, which is common sense for anyone at work.  Again, the rush was there, but it was a big letdown when it wore off, almost counterproductive.

Working a full revolution of the short hand round the clock (7 am – 7 pm) is OK when you’re a desk jockey, you can pace yourself, do stretches and take reasonable breaks.  It’s not quite the same when the factory is four levels, you go up and down the stairs roughly twice an hour, you go around machinery every now and then just to make sure there are no chokes and blockages, you measure 30-ton bins to update production boards, and generally combine the functions and activities of a cleaning person, security watchman, quality assurance person and amateur troubleshooter for the better part of 720 minutes, nearly every second of all those minutes.

I’m definitely not complaining especially since my boss and department head have both reposed a lot of trust and confidence in my modest ability (or lack of same), and particularly since there are so many unemployed here in New Zealand who would probably kill for an opportunity to prove themselves equal to the tasks required in my job.

It’s just that extra production demands on the site, key personnel on leave or unable to report to work, and long hours being unavoidable, all of us on staff were asked to go the extra mile for the company, who had been doing the same for us in terms of better working conditions, more communication with the bigwigs, and more concern in general for grunts like me.

First proof. Now I can tell you how intense it was for a former white-collar worker like me.  First,, towards the end of the shift, my myopia was getting more pronounced, almost like I needed new glasses.  I don’t know if this was just eyestrain or the general tiredness I was enduring, but as far as I can tell it never happened before.  It was both amusing and scary, and I had to wipe my spectacles to see if anything was wrong with them.

Second proof.  Second, the last hour of the last day of my workweek, I was beginning to feel like a zombie that you see in shows like Walking Dead.  I was getting light-headed, my limbs were turning to lead, and I just wanted to melt away.  Of course I couldn’t, because there were still chores to do, and my shift partner and I still had to turn over the site to our night shift counterparts, who actually had it worse : they were doing everything we were doing, except that instead of 7 am to 7 pm, they were doing it 7 pm to 7 am in the dead of night.

Third proof. And lastly, I got so tired nearly every day of the week that if you can believe it, I didn’t think of sex for at least 48 hours!  This indisputably was a world’s first and a world’s record for me since puberty, and that my friends was how tired I am.

The pic you see above is a small token of appreciation given by SuperBisor for the long hours I’ve done.  A lot of the fatigue, including the first and second proofs was dissolved not just by the treat itself but by the appreciation it symbolized.

Something I can’t ignore, and which I hope won’t be a problem next time we do long hours, is of course, the third proof.  Man doesn’t live by bread alone, and all that. 🙂

Thanks for the appreciation SuperBisor, and thanks everyone for reading!

repost courtesy of Bunso : “The Elusive First Job (in NZ)”



[Note : Actually, this was the second job my son Bunso successfully applied for, but this was the first time he actually liked the job. 🙂  So he was gracious enough to write about it after a local Pinoy newsmagazine in Wellington invited him to do so.  I liked it so much (his story) that I am reposting it below, with permission of course from both the publisher and the author.  You may access Bunso’s online version as well by clicking on the link in this paragraph.  Thanks again Didith Tayawa Figuracion and Meia Lopez of Kabayan Magazine in Wellington, and anak for your generosity! ]

KNOWING YOURSELF is one thing but describing yourself is another.  On finding a job, one of the most important things to remember is to put your best foot forward.  You have to present yourself as the best candidate for whatever job you’re applying for without sounding arrogant or too proud.

It took a while to get my first job but finally, after sending in numerous CVs (both physical and online), my efforts have paid off.  When I finally landed a job, I was ecstatic!  (I honestly can’t put my feelings into words.  But it was comparable to how I felt when I passed the entrance exam for the university I wanted to attend back home in the Philippines.  I felt really happy and blessed.)

So here’s my take on how you should prepare to get that (first) elusive job.

Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for.  Customise your CV and always point out skills and qualities you have that other people might not have.  Make sure to relate these to the job you are applying for.  Some jobs require you to be independent and some require you to be in a team.  If you like to do both, say so but don’t pretend to be somebody you’re not.

Your CV must speak for you especially for jobs you apply for online and situations where you won’t be able to see the prospective manager/boss before getting an interview.  Put together an image of yourself based on your personality (are you friendly and helpful?), experiences  (have you interacted with people from different ethniticities and backgrounds giving you that cross cultural perspective from your travels overseas or interactions in school?)  and skills (are you good with managing your time, multitasking or prioritising?).

Get the best referees possible.  Ask your high school (college) principal or your parents’ friends if they are willing to be your referees.  Get someone who knows you and is willing to help and can vouch for your professionalism.

Do your homework.  It helps a lot if you know the employer or have referees working within the workplace you are applying at.  Find out as much as you can about the company where you are applying.

During interviews make yourself very presentable.  From your clothes to your demeanor, you are being observed.  Wear clothes feel comfortable in and always appear open and approachable.  There is not one job in the world that would turn away people with those qualities, if there were they would probably be jobs most people wouldn’t apply for. (ha-ha just kidding.)

Now comes the hard part — asking for prior job experience when it’s your first job (locally).  Most jobs you apply for need prior experience but how can you get experience without getting a job?  I can only think of two ways to convince the employer to give you a chance.  Work for free for a specified amount of time depending on what you’re open to, for example one to two weeks, whatever floats your boat.  The other is to ask for an interview and character reference check and if they like what they hear then they might give you a shot.

So, when you do get the job, you better show them that they picked the right guy/gal.  Cheers and good luck to all the young people out there looking for employment, it definitely isn’t easy but it’s all worth it.

You go guys! 🙂

World War W*

[ Thanks to YouTube poster LooksCrisp for the series of pics in the video! ]

LET’S JUST SAY Wellington (my temporary adopted city) has received more than its share of natural (and man-made) eff-ups lately, if you’ll forgive the french.   All around the Wellington region are cows and farmers bearing the brunt of the latest dairy industry PR fiasco that’s resulted in NZ milk being banned from China, Russia, a few former Soviet republics and Sri Lanka.  Then there’s a share in the nationwide drought earlier this year, punishing gale-force winds that torture man and beast once too often, tsunami alerts, and of course, the series of tremors that brought them about.

You would believe me I think if I say that we can sit and bear all of the above misfortunes EXCEPT the last one, the latest of which once again caused a stir over the weekend all over Central New Zealand reminiscent of a month ago, when quite a few shelves and their contents were turned topsy-turvy.

Owing to prudence, common sense and just plain good luck, Mahal and I kept clear of that most recent quake, but we still had our share of Freaky Friday when everything rocked in Windy Welly.

It all started when Mahal and I thought we would cap our short leave from work together by going on an afternoon car ride to somewhere we’d never been, or a cozy little gulod we’d never seen.  Better yet, rare exhibitions of Renoir, Cezanne and other impressionists on the one hand, and Andy Warhol on the other, were being held at Te Papa, the museum in town.  Whichever came first or wherever exit first presented itself on the motorway would be our destination.

Just before we filled up our faithful steed at the last-chance petrol station, we abruptly decided that uptown was too far for us and went for a mall we’d never gone to.  There wasn’t any logical, practical or sane reason for doing so.  At 2.31 pm, as soon as we finished refilling the tank, all the cars in the vicinity, including our own, began swaying.  Mahal thought I was fooling around and pushing the car, when she realized everything else was moving.  People around us started running around, before the quake stopped around 20 seconds later.

You’d think that by then we’d reconsider travelling and call it a day, but no siree.  Not having a TV, laptop or talk radio around, there didn’t seem to be any urgency to change plans, and we still went to that mall away from Lower Hutt where we lived, but still outside Wellington City proper.

We still had around an hour of normal malling pleasure, looking at the K-Mart and local shops before we  found out that the majority of the mall stores were closing early just to be on the safe side, structural concerns and all.  Mall employees were also being let off early.  So that ended our surprisingly short excursion to Porirua.

The surprises weren’t over by any means.  When we got to the motorway, traffic was a bit heavier than usual, which wasn’t that unusual since it was Friday afternoon, and the heavy flow away from the city was expected.

What wasn’t expected was that the traffic on the other side, which we could plainly see, was also heavy.  What we hadn’t known until then was that because there was minor chaos in Wellington, all city-bound vehicles since the quake took place had been having a hard time reaching their destination.

Around a couple of hours later on the news, we saw that thousands of commuters were stranded trying to leave the city, and the situation was aggravated by the train system suspended for safety reasons.  People were trying to get home by any means, and police were flagging down motorists for instant carpooling.  Happily, in true Wellingtonian spirit, many motorists obliged.

It dawned on us that had we gone through with our original plan of visiting the museum and surprising Ganda and Bunso in their new jobs, we would’ve been the ones surprised, ending up most likely trapped in the gridlock that ensued and unable to go home for a good hour plus.

Still and all, it was a relief for most of us.  Given that it was a magnitude 6.6 earthquake (at the epicenter), stronger than the one around a month earlier, and that magnitude 5 aftershocks filled the next 24 hours till today, it was a Godsend that there were no serious injuries.

I can only surmise that there was something (or maybe Someone) beyond the usual five senses that told us to avoid town that fateful Friday, saving us from a lot of grief and a lot of inconvenience, and we certainly aren’t complaining.  Thank you po.

I’m likewise hoping that Messieurs Cezanne and Renoir as well as Mr Warhol will be kind enough to extend their hospitality for a few more days.   I don’t think, all things equal, Mahal and I will be able to view their iconic  paintings in our lifetimes if we pass up this opportunity.

And no more earthquakes, please?

Thanks for reading!

*W stands for Wellington, city or region, also known as the biggest little capital anywhere on the Southern Hemisphere.

getting lost in your own backyard

all colorful, all beautiful, and all Southeast Asian.  Thanks to for the pic!

all colorful, all beautiful, and all Southeast Asian. Thanks to for the pic!

[ Note : We could only share in the triumph vicariously, but hearfelt congrats just the same to the Men’s Basketball Team of the Philippines also known as Smart Gilas, for a job well done.  Onward to the World Championships! Advance happy anniversary and more power to the KASAGIP Charitable Trust of Wellington, New Zealand! ]

WE ARE separated from our neighbor states by land and sea, but we are linked by more than just a bit of culture, cuisine and language.  Diplomats and politicians like to say platitudes like these often, but it’s truer than you think.  We look, cook and talk a lot like our Malayan cousins down south, our Indochinese relations eastward and of course, the great unifier of culture and takeaway, the Middle Kingdom in the north.  There are a lot of similarities that cancel out the differences throughout the Southeast Asian region, but the root causes and origin of these similarities, ultimately, are those who call themselves the pride of the Han race, whose mission and vision is to invade every country on the planet via cheap manufacturing and sweet and sour sauce.

But enough of hackneyed cliches and media stereotypes.  I’ve told you more than once before that one of the many gigs we’ve done is cleaning houses, and a couple of these happened to be owned by immigrants like ourselves.  At the same time, you’ve heard me mention many times that I’m quite taken by fellow Southeast Asian migrants (to New Zealand) but even more by the latter who also have Chinese ancestry.

The surface signs are obvious : looks, language and food preference.  Because Pinoys have more than a few ml’s of Chinese blood running through their veins, it’s common for us to be mistaken for Chinese.  But the same is true with Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Thais, Laotians and Burmese.  And the reason is obvious: after centuries of assimilation with the local inhabitants, the Chinese have imprinted themselves on numerous cultures, absorbed the best and worst of the host countries they’ve migrated to, and have produced a fusion of multiple subcultures that for lack of  a better term, I’m describing as Chinatownization anywhere and everywhere.

patis (fish sauce) looks, smells and tastes the same everywhere in the SE Asian region.  Uncanny!  Thanks & acknowledgment for the pic to :)

patis (fish sauce) looks, smells and tastes the same everywhere in the SE Asian region. Uncanny! Thanks & acknowledgment for the pic to 🙂

Just look at the food.  Nearly every home I’ve visited either to clean or as a guest has a 20-kg bag or sack of rice in a corner of the kitchen.  They invariably have instant noodles in the pantry, use nearly the same condiments, and favor the same veggies.  They have a kind of universal fish paste (bagoong) as well as fish sauce (patis), the kinds that produce aromas that Kiwis don’t appreciate too much, in their respective kitchens.  You would be forgiven for mistaking for your own kitchens those in various Asian immigrant homes, given the parallel smells, sounds and sights.  The ginger and oyster sauce, hissing of the sauteeing kawali (woks) and the blending of rice and corn with sauces heavily flavored with soy sauce, sap vinegar and tamarind are almost uncanny.

It doesn’t stop there.  Many faiths encourage and enjoin their believers into a stable monotheism, but the lines seem to blur in the Far East.  And nowhere is this more evident in their houses.  Either Christianity or Buddhism is usually dominant but don’t be surprised if both are respected and the text or image representing another or more religions is present.  This is often because the spouses practice different religions and neither expects the other to change.   A sort-of functional ecumenism follows for the children, who hopefully aren’t coerced into either faith.  Again, this may not be that common back home in the Philippines, but how often have you seen Catholicism and non-denominational Christianity coexist in Pinoy households, or altars to different deities set up in different corners of Chinese Filipino homes?

Finally there’s a remarkable contrast I observed in these houses, first because of the similarity with ours and second because it is shared by quite a few immigrant countries across the board : There is not much priority placed in fixtures, furniture and appliances, but more than the usual comfort zone is invested in education and the mind.  I have seen one home where the carpet is threadbare and the sofa set from a secondhand shop, but the books , PCs and iPads reminded me of a small library.  There was also more than the usual number of examination guides, prospectuses to universities and study helps designed to help the students in that abode get ahead in every which way possible.  Needless to say, the members of the family in that house were honor students and matriculating in the top universities not just in Wellington but in New Zealand.  Under the watchful eyes of both Asian parents.

With a few variations, I saw the same in two other homes, with funds for luxury deprioritized in favor of the future of the kids.  It’s almost as if the migrants are making up for lost time in their adopted countries by heavier investment in skills and training.  Hard to argue with that, right?

Thanks for reading!

for this kabayan Pinay mom, can the timing be any better?

Dominion Post[ Note : My bisor thought she was Polynesian, the Quality Assurance manager thought she was Maori, but one look at the smile on today’s front page (
above) told me the subject below was one of ours.  Mabuhay and maligayang pagdating Nicolas Javier and congrats and job well done  to the proud parents Rea and John !]

FILIPINOS, MALAYSIANS, Taiwanese and everyone else in the region must have gotten it from the Chinese.  We all love to start things with a bang.  Witness the Armageddon-like fireworks we all indulge in at New Year’s Eve; the countdowns in multi-media megaevents (well, everyone does it the world over) and the huge parties and celebrations that no one can do without.

We also like to start our major events auspiciously, like the Chinese do.  Remember the rush to have babies during the Dragon Year of the Chinese astrological calendar?  How about doing everything to have a baby born of the eighth hour of the eighth day of the eighth month, eight being a particularly lucky number in the Asian universe.

And lastly, how about having a baby born during a particularly eventful day, the Apollo 11 landing for example?  I know at least one Pinay named Aldrina, who was of course named after Buzz Aldrin, only the second man on the moon after Neil Armstrong.

You therefore can’t get any better than our kabayan who starred in Wellington‘s Dominion Post today.  She gave birth during the scary  6.5 magnitude earthquake last Sunday, and only two days before the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, more popularly known as Prince William and Princess Kate and third in line to the British throne.

So within a span of TWO days, that’s TWO major events coinciding with the said birth.   It was even reported in the local paper, and remember at the time the latter wasn’t even aware that the royal baby’s birth was imminent!  This means one event was auspicious enough.

This is one of those posts where I don’t have to say much, I’ll just reproduce the Dominion Post story below (entitled Baby’s start to life shaky but worth it, says mom) if you don’t mind :

(July 23) NEW mother Rea Javier might just be the only person in Wellington who was oblivious to Sunday’s earthquake.

The combined effects of epidurals and a tough labour meant her focus was elsewhere.

“I think I felt the quake but I had other things on my mind,” she said from her bed at Hutt Hospital yesterday as she cradled her son Nicolas.

He is already being called Quake by his young cousins.

Husband John said : “Rea was foggy with all the medicine and she was just focusing on the labour.

“I was definitely scared.  We didn’t know what was going to happen, but the hospital staff were very reassuring, they said nothing’s going to happen to the baby.”

The quake, at 5.09 pm, caused the hospital lifts to close down for half an hour and delayed getting Mrs Javier into theatre for a caesarean section.  But, at 6.42 pm, Nicholas was borh, weighing a healthy 3.3 kilograms.

“Everything was worth it in spite of what happened,” Mrs Javier said.

She and her husband moved to the Wellington suburb of Newlands from the Philippine capital of Manila, about five years ago.

Mrs Javier said that, although they had experienced quakes in their homeland, they were nowhere as intense or as frequent as in New Zealand.  (Woohoo!)

Thanks so much in advance The Dominion Post and its reporter Mr Matt Stewart, and may the Pinoy community continue to add to the New Zealand population in a spectacular way, timing-wise!  Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

Thanks for reading!