why i’m not yet ready for a smartphone


[ Thanks to fastcompany.com for the image above! ]

WITH YOUR kind indulgence, I’m talking to you without the aid of Google, Wikipedia and any other priceless aid to conversation that makes online life so easy these days.  This is why I have no erudite, professional definition of a Smartphone, which is of course different from the Smart Phone popular in the Philippines a few years ago.  I’m only going by my direct, personal experience with such artifact, for that is what the smartphone is isn’t it? an artifact or talisman of our society and culture today.

Based on the little that I know, the smartphone is a cell phone with so many added features, not the least of which is connectivity with the internet, high-resolution and pixel-less camera included, GPS and other neat stuff.  It seems that in the last few months, everyone I know and nearly everyone I see is using a smartphone.

Yes there is a personal reason for me talking about this.  Mahal the beauteous maybahay told me it was high time that I started using a new phone, and gifted me a Samsung mini Galaxy for Christmas (thank you so much my love).  While I’m ecstatic and over the moon with the new-fangled device, I do have a few reservations.

integrated to the bone.  Nearly three-quarters (or some days, more) of our free time is consumed by being on the internet, as you and I know very well.  What having a smartphone means is that the remaining sliver of 25% which is spent with family, doing chores, and maybe performing your marital obligations (wink, wink) will be taken up by The Matrix as well.  I don’t know, the internet is scarily compelling, addictive, and worse, you’re hooked and you can’t even admit it.  There are just too many things to do, even though you start logging on with the best of intentions, like receiving and sending e-mails across the miles, or maybe finishing work at home.  Pretty soon you start doing things you never intended, and before long it becomes an entrenched, regular and essential part of your daily life.  Add the internet feature to your cell phone, your constant companion on the commute, at work, mealtimes and at your bedside, and the internet is no longer your tool, but your master.  And thanks to your phone, you are the SLAVE.  I can just hear my new Samsung quietly snickering, bwahahahaha…

your eye has become a camera.  The smartphone has made budding photographers out of every one of us, and everybody has become a photojournalist.  A golden sunset on the way home?  I just have to snap that.  Click.  Patterns in nature or in the clothes of madding crowds?  Too cute, have to share that.  Snap.  Profoundness in everyday scenery?  Hmm.  Will my FB friends see the beauty of what I’m seeing?  Won’t know till I post that on Instagram, Send!  We don’t even need to convince wary friends to view our family and vacation albums anymore, because their digital and online versions are splashed all across the social networks, exacerbated by Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr (did I spell that right?).  While this is all good and ego-stroking for us, adding to the existing billions of photos panoramas and self-gratifying shots that no one will appreciate after the cursory glance is not very good for the near-bursting databanks of our collective lives. For this is what our smartphone cameras encourage us to do : keep taking snapshots and photos like there’s no tomorrow.  Maybe one in ten thousand will end up a timeless photo that will inspire generations to come, but the nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine plus will be just that, the forgotten recycled bin pile.

watching videos on a tiny screen.  This by far seems to be the definitive activity of the smartphone-owner-cum-bus/train-commuter : if you play your RPG, Candy Crush Saga or any other casual game that is anything but casual (it involves your energy, commitment and many times online money), you need a screen.  If you’re like a billion other virtual world inhabitants and like surfing YouTube and watching videos, sports highlights and virally funny comedians, you need a screen.  If you like keeping in touch with your loved ones via Skype, Face Time or any other face-to-face application, you obviously need a screen.  And you want it 24/7, in virtual time, meaning as soon as you need the service, and you want it in high-quality, high-speed mode.  This is why your smartphone is suddenly something that you can’t do without.  This is why, despite the migration towards larger and larger screens (think 50-inch plasma TV viewing that’s as commonplace as your microwave), the smartphone is something of a departure, a temporary detour that we’re willing to take in the name of instant connectability and instant gratification, video-wise.

Fortunately for me, I like watching videos, but I can live without watching them constantly.  I can keep in touch face-to-face, but only when I’m in the comfort of my high chair in front of the laptop.  In fact, out of the scenarios in which the smartphone is becoming an essential, I can only relate to gaming, as it is understandably an all-day, all-access activity that requires instant connectivity.  Luckily for me, I can wait till I get home to play my beloved CCS.

As of this writing, I’m trying to understand my new toy, the mini Galaxy that Mahal insists I introduce myself to and vice-versa.  It is a heavily involving activity, and I have to understandably break out of my comfort zone.  But on the altar of progress, some sacrifices must be made, and I just want to survive.

Thanks so much for your Christmas greetings, and if you have any instructional aids on smart phones for me, I will be grateful!

what lies beneath

THE VIDEO is grainy, the speech is garbled, and in their respective ways, the English of both speakers is heavily accented (Kiwi or New Zealander English on the one hand, and Pakistani English on the other).  But it might have been just as well, because if you pay full attention and fully comprehend what is happening exactly, it would have been painful to watch.

There is just so much racist abuse being hurled on the taxi driver in the four and a half minutes of the YouTube clip above that you would be forgiven for turning away and losing your appetite, if not your belief in the innate kindness of strangers.  If not for its shock value, there is no redeeming social value in disseminating such a clip.  I only share it because of a profound and abiding truth which I guess every migrant, not just Filipino, has learned in New Zealand.

Our temporary adopted country is probably one of the most (if not the most) politically correct and tolerant countries in the world.  Every effort is made on the institutional level to make us feel welcome here.  No effort is spared to make the most different looking and exotic sounding migrant assimilate to the values, customs and tradition here.  It’s true that New Zealand is primarily atheist and humanist (as opposed to religious) but it is tremendously altruistic and humanitarian in all its actions.

However, that racist rant and abuse you see above is what lurks beneath the surface of what many locals show their migrant neighbors and colleagues.  Yes, our hosts welcome our contribution and participation in their communities, they appreciate our enthusiastic efforts to help turn the wheels of economy, and they especially relish the fact that we replace the bedpans of their infirm and wash the bums of their elderly.

But there will always be a firewall we cannot breach, an inner circle we cannot break.  In areas like government and certain professions, we cannot expect to be welcome.

In the end, as it was in the beginning, we will to a certain extent always be outsiders.

In a way, it’s a good thing a racist episode like this came to light.  The speaker was drunk, he was incoherent (partially) and he wasn’t fully understood, but the filter through which he usually coursed his opinions was for that evening totally absent : he therefore spoke with complete candidness, spoke his mind, and said exactly what he thought was happening in his carefully structured world.

Listen carefully to what he says : he couldn’t conceive of what people like his driver for the night was doing in his country, in a country where he didn’t belong.  He called his driver a name reserved for the human male sexual organ, modified by an adjective describing his Muslim faith.   Lastly, he said (if I’m not mistaken) he would pay the seven-dollar fare if the driver would return to his own country.  Truly horrible.

Do you know what?  Even if he apologized less than 48 hours after, even if he was remorseful, and even if he accepted an invitation to visit the community Mosque to I assume explain himself, I am willing to bet my one week’s wages that he meant every word he said, despite his drunken state then.  And I don’t doubt for a moment that it is not an isolated situation.  True, what happened above is the exception and not the rule, but racism exists everywhere, even in politically correct and tolerant New Zealand.  That’s just the way it is.

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I wanted to tell you two other unrelated things that happened to me recently, but in a roundabout way they’re not that unrelated.

Bunso my son was recently pushed by a shopper he wanted to help while working his shift in a large supermarket chain.  Everyone was outraged by the situation, but when the matter reached management, the latter decided to sweep the matter under the rug.  Why?  the shopper had mental issues daw, and had been a loyal shopper for some time.    Regardless of the unbelievable excuses given, the one thing that stuck in Bunso’s craw was the fact that he was a very junior employee, and of course, that he wasn’t Kiwi.

I won’t even answer your question on what race the shopper belonged to.  By the way, Bunso by coincidence or otherwise is no longer working in the said supermarket.  He resigned as soon as he got accepted in Starbucks.  Congrats anak and woohoo!

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And lastly, if there was any doubt  the only nation that Japan hates more than North Korea (or for that matter, South Korea) is Big Brother China, it was dispelled on yesterday’s international news page yesterday.  Japan pledged to the Philippines 10, countem TEN coast guard boats to assist the latter in its maritime intramurals with China.

Japan and China have had a long, long history of bad blood, stretching all the way to the Sino-Japanese War, Japanese War of Aggression,  the Nanking Massacre to today’s Diaoyu Islands brouhaha.  There is no simple solution to the Sino-Japanese conflict, it goes very deeply into the national psyches of each country.  Sad to say, it is just as much a racial issue, with Chinese and Japanese (ironically close genetic cousins) deeply mistrusting each other with inexplicable loathing.

The Philippines is actually just a pawn in this regional MMA battle between states.  Japan just wants to stick another needle in China’s side by giving us sticks and stones to throw at the Chinese Giant.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we’re just being used by the Empire of the Sun in its mighty struggle against the Central Kingdom.

I just don’t know why I feel so good with those new Japanese boats on our side of the sea.

can’t-miss markers of our pinoy accent

[ Note : just another blog on Pinoy accents; thanks and acknowledgment for the awesome video above to Mikey Bustos of YouTube ! Congrats Pao dela Costa Montenegro on your graduation, everyone’s proud of you! it doesn’t take a Nobel  laureate, but there is obviously a direct relationship between the senseless killings in America and the said nation’s (duh) gun control policy.  Absolutely incomprehensible. ]

versatilebloggeraward11I KNOW of at least two Pinoys here in New Zealand who will never lose their Filipino accent, and I can identify only one of them (later below) with consent.  The first, who I think I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, has been in New Zealand for the better part of two decades, isn’t all that pronounced with his Pinoy speech, but talk with him an instant and you know where he’s from.

Certain vowels, intonation, nasalness and our fondness for certain consonants are not unique among languages; it comes from phonetic favorites in our words and phrases and the same goes with other tongues.  Sometimes we sound like Malaysians and Indonesians, not surprising because we share the same root language (Sanskrit), other times we sound like Vietnamese, Thai and even Cambodians, most probably because of the shared Chinese influence on our language/speech.  But ultimately we distinguish ourselves with friends and speakers all over the world because we love to speak English with so-called native English speakers, sometimes pretend to be better than English than they are (and actually convince them a good part of the time), and in the process stamp our personal signature on the King’s English.

Below are some markers that indicate that a Pinoy speaker is within two to three meters from Ground Zero, there are many others, but time and space today are limited to :

the short a’s, short e’s and short o’s.  When we were in primary school, we were taught that sounds for every vowel were distinctly divided into two : short and long.  We took this literally, as in apple was AH-pple, dad would always be dAHd, and fat from a Pinoy sounds regularly like fAHt.  It didn’t matter to us that English speakers all over world say something between the short and long version; and that sip, lip, tin and sin for us are like saying IP, IP, IN, and IN;  and that fog, log, mop, top are OG, OG, OP and OP with the consonants before and after just incidental.  It’s just the way we are, we seem to be in love with the short vowel sound, nothing wrong with that, but to people who aren’t used to it, it can be a bit startling and disconcerting.  Otherwise, especially because we use it ourselves, it becomes endearing (?) .

avoidance of schwa.  This is the converse of the first observation above.  Because media is heavily peppered by US references, it would be a reasonable presumption that a good part of our pronunciation is filled with the schwa sound.  I venture to say that the schwa sound has taken over about a third of all vowel sounds in the American English speech pattern, but when you listen to me and my countrymen speak, it turns out that the schwa is not that popular.  Reason?  As mentioned earlier, we are enamored with our short and long vowel sounds, and we like to stick to them.  It is almost like the way continental Europeans speak English; they have retained the original commands of vowels (think of any German, Italian or Scandinavian speaking English).  I know we’re not Europeans by any means, but unless we are call center specialists or diplomats, we won’t be picking up the schwa sound anytime soon.

Infatuation with the “r” sound.  This sound might initially be identified with Northern speakers like the Ilocanos, Panggalatoks and our kabayan from the mountainous regions, but when you really really think about it, we Filipinos as a group all like our “r” sounds like we like patis in our sinigang, bagoong in our kare-kare and puto with our dinuguan.  We don’t care that the British and other former Commonwealth nations have all but dropped the “r” at the end of words (butter, waiter, winter), or that a lot of American speakers soften the “r” sound, for us the “r” sound, particularly at the end of words is similar to a small motor or lawn mower, the more our “r”s vibrates, the better.

Unaspirated “t”, absent “f”s.  Like the video says above, we aren’t very vocal about our “f”s and “v”s, probably an influence of Spanish colony years (almost three centuries), but have you paused and tried to find out why those “t”s sound so understated when we talk?  We hardly aspirate them, even with short t words like talk, tender and tomato, sometimes causing our listeners to mishear us.  And about “f”s, well I suppose the video says it all.

That’s all I have for today, and as I promised, I can only tell you about the second of two ever-faithful Pinoy accent users, and that is none other than esposa hermosa, who wears it like a terno wherever she goes.  Whether it’s intentional or not it’s probably too early to tell, as she has only been overseas two-plus years, but to many of the people she meets, I guess it’s fair to say that it charms the pants off them (figuratively) 🙂

Thanks for reading!

when Bamboo, Rivermaya, Gloc9 & Loonie knock on Wellington’s doors, Pinoys scramble!

Rivermaya members Ryan P, Norby D, Mark E and Mike E were recovering from both their gig and a land trip from AKL to Welly but were kind enough to grant us an interview and cozy pics! Those are big grins from Bunso, me and Mahal 🙂

[ Note :  Maraming, maraming salamat po sa Western Union at Ginoong Gene Orejana for  helping make possible the experience below! ]

I’M CONFIDENT most of us have heard of the term comfort food, the food we grew up with and cherished, the food we crave for in our vulnerable and low moments, when we feel down and need a picker-upper, when we just need a poke from the well-loved and familiar, something that reminds us of our beloved youth, when we’re older; or of homeland, when we’re far away.

But what about comfort music?  Music that you happened to listen to and and enjoy during the happiest times of your life, music you remember during your high times and low times, music you want close by when you’re doing everything or doing nothing, in short music you love listening to while you’re living life as you know it (or maybe as you don’t), and need we add, music that makes you comfortable.

I blush a bit when admitting that quite a few songs that make up my imaginary comfort music playlist, I don’t even know the title to, owing to my congenital cluelessness and gender-based laziness (beyond a certain age, men more than women are predisposed to wallow in the mud).  But I do know of, at least, the fabled bands that are behind those catchy tunes, and the name that resonates the most in this blogging moment is Rivermaya, who together with former front man Bamboo, rappers Gloc9 and Loonie and local Kiwinoy talent, made our November Sunday just past a memorable one.

The common thread with the rappers was the edge to their lyrics, the slight nod to social realities and the exquisite devotion to rhyme and measure.  I saw/heard a bit more of Loonie than Gloc9, the latter probably more mainstream based on his YouTube hits.  But both were crazy-good, and correspondingly drove the Kiwinoy crowd crazy.

your loyal blogger, Loonie and Bunso after his set. 🙂

Loonie told me later that his rap lyrics in Sinungaling could apply to any aspect of Pinoy society, but the words he used reminded me eerily of politicians, media personalities and opportunists in business and government :

sinungaling ang simbahan / sinungaling ang gobyerno / sinungaling pag sinabing di to galing sa kwaderno / sinungaling ang radyo / sinungaling ang dyaryo / baradong inidoro / sinong galing sa banyo / mahirap malaman kung sino sa atin ang tapat / sapagkat para sa akin sinungaling ang lahat/

It was hard to capture the social commentary in Sinungaling mainly because Loonie was going 500 words a minute, everyone was delirious with delight, and frankly, his barrage of rapping lyrics were freakin’ entertaining.  It was only while talking with him a bit later that he revealed his earnestness in trying to reflect the social riddles of inequality, poverty, and untruths peddled by those who seek to control the masses through deceit.

But the performance that truly got our attention was Rivermaya, right after the rappers.  Their massive talent exceeded only by their humility, the band opened up their set with a couple of Eraserhead standards, which in our book is the best way possible to pay homage to their contemporaries in greatness.

After that, hit after hit after hit was played by Rivermaya, without whom the last decade of 20th century OPM wouldn’t have been the same.  Kisapmata, Himala, Umaaraw Umuulan, unforgettable in their melodies, storytelling and showmanship, the Rivermaya signature splattered all over the songs despite the constant reinvention through the years in personnel.

Bamboo was kind enough to pose before his set with a very pretty fan 😉

Easily the star of the show was Bamboo, who ironically opened his set with Adik sa Yo, which he popularized while still a lead singer with Rivermaya, who played just moments before he started.

Unfortunately, we had to start acquainting ourselves with his colleagues Loonie, Gloc9 and Rivermaya, so we missed a good part of Bamboo’s performance.

Our night ended soon after that, and before long the Wellington Pinoy community would bid goodbye to the Prince of Rock, the once and future kings of alternative Pinoy rock, and the two best Pinoy rappers, but the music they provided would, for sure, forever remain in our souls.

Thank you Western Union NZ, Emerge Entertainment and everyone else who made the event, a three-leg tour (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) possible !

Mabuhay OPM !

How can you not smile after watching this?

Just more proof that the incarcerated and those undergoing reform are more in touch with the world than you and me.

For background, the original dance / video has reached 341.2 million YouTube hits, and has shown no sign of abating, or plateauing.

The video above hasn’t done too badly on its own, and will probably top 800,000 hits before the end of the week.  It might even exceed the 1.06 million hits generated by the Thriller (M.Jackson) dance number.

By the way, CPDRC stands for Cebu (Philippines) Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center.

Thanks for watching!

All that is needed for evil to triumph . . .

[Note : with grateful acknowledgment to Mr Edmund Burke ]

THE NICE thing about keeping a blog is that it also serves as a sort-of diary, about your rants and raves, thoughtful and thoughtless musings.  You may or  may not be politically correct, socially conscious or morally upright at all times, and at the time you put pen to electronic paper, it’s not a deliberate thing, trying to be PC, a bleeding heart or a beacon in the moral wilderness, but things tend to be said, and remembered.

Like I said, I’ve always been more or less yacky chirpy and flighty, sometimes all of the above at the same time, and the end result is a blog posted, but I used to do it on our high school batch Yahoo!group page, and unfortunately my high school batchmates were unwilling sounding boards of whatever wacky thought-processes happened to clutter my neural paths and brain-cell boulevards.

But on one of those Yahoogroup blogs, I did note down that I was running around the block near Meadowbank, Auckland three years ago when a car sped past and the driver threw a tape cartridge at me, not intending to injure but certainly wanting to catch my Asian attention.  I picked up said tape cartridge, and it was an album of an unknown Taiwanese band.  Certainly no relevance to me, but the message was clear.  A little spittle of disrespect was hurled my way, no skin off my back, but quite unsettling, and almost surely from someone who didn’t like Asians in the neighborhood.  It didn’t matter that I wasn’t Taiwanese (although ethnically Taiwanese and Chinese are the same, and I’m part-Chinese), it was like a megaphone shouted in my face : just so you haven’t been made aware, you’re the visiting minority here, and don’t you forget it for one single minute.

Multiply the viciousness of that incident around a hundredfold, and you get an idea of what happened in Sydney Australia yesterday, and while it may be race-specific, the act I mean, it bodes forbidding consequences for all Asians and migrants like you and me.

I hope you either read the newsclip or viewed the YouTube clip above, or even better did both, but even if you didn’t, I can tell you that whether or not the alleged criminal youths originally intended it, the act degenerated into a hate crime, against Asians and more specifically Chinese as a group.

Equally if not more alarming were the “environmental” facts around the incident, of the Chinese being assaulted and robbed.  One of the youths remarked that the group should focus their criminal acts on the Chinese because “they (usually) have money,” and that no one came to help the Chinese man defend himself.

It’s very unfortunate, but the acts of a very few people in civil society, when it is directed against a specific racial / demographic group, tend to incite fear, defensiveness and retaliation as well as other emotional responses in the group of the member attacked, and the group of the instigators.  Ironically, both groups end up getting defensive.

First of all, it creates the general feeling that there is a concerted feeling of ill will against a specific race or racial group.  Whether or not this is true, the fact is those youths believed that certain groups of people, particularly the Chinese, are better targets for criminal activity, not the least because they (allegedly) tend to have more money on their persons.

Second, the unfortunate consequence of the Chinese man receiving no aid from anyone else on the train creates the spontaneous (on my part) impression that (1) the bystanders were too afraid for their own safety to intervene, (2) they didn’t care enough to help their co-passenger, or (3) they didn’t think the Chinese man, maybe because of his Chineseness, deserved any help.

If guesses (1) and (2) were true, the Sydney commuting public and Australians in general have a lot to think about.  If guess (3) turns out to be true, then all migrants in Australia, and maybe New Zealand, and come to think of it, the rest of the world, have a whole lot more to think about.

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It’s become a jaded observation in one PC-uptight country that a child-rapist murderer might get early parole if he plays his cards right, but not someone who makes the mistake of hurling racist epithets in public and has the misfortune of having his racist deeds magnified in media.  In short, crimes against race sensitivity have become so odious that they have acquired a stigma above all other crimes, sometimes at the expense of commonsense, like the Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case capturing national attention beyond imagination.

But there is a reason for this, because racial sensitivity and understanding underpins the relationships of whole communities in societies and in fact between societies and civilizations themselves.  Being a member of good standing in the community of nations requires a basic understanding and acceptance that all races and cultures need to live and co-exist alongside each other.

If something like this can happen in First World, cosmopolitan Sydney Australia, a bulwark of the multi-racial 21st century global village, it could happen anywhere.

And that, my friend, is not good for you and me.

Thanks for reading!

Why I’m not destined 2 B a Facebook person

He lets me visit his page but won't accept my friend request 😦

NOW THAT’S pretty hypocritical as hypocritical gets (the title above), if you ask Your Loyal Blogger.  I mean, I use FB everyday that the Lord has made, depend on it for the messages that mean most to me as if my life depended on it (and it does), get updates from friends, friends of friends and relatives, not to mention people I’m interested in ( stalker alert ! :p ) and lastest but not the leastest, rely on FB for the two current loves of my sedentary life, Tri-Peaks Solitaire and Egyptian Pyramid Solitaire, I’m red-faced to admit.

In short, I’m starting to be one of those people who consult their Facebook pages morning noon and night, use it for almost every aspect of their lives, are as comfortable in the virtual world as they are in the real, can’t imagine how they existed before it, and are part of the unnerving demographic who would readily give up alcohol, showers and SEX (caps mine) rather than go without the internet.

That last group, of lifers that go without a life, has so floored me that I’m reproducing the money shot of the short report below :

New research suggests many people would rather give up alcohol, showers or sex than go without the internet. More than one in five men and women would become celibate to remain online.  10 percent would give up their car, while seven percent would rather give up showers for a year.

Like the DJ who alerted my attention to it says, it’s the last two categories of hermits that we can all do without, but what about that first huh?  Methinks that group was prepared to go without the nasty anyways, and surfing eBay, Google, imdb and mugglenet 24/7 were just added incentives.  But to each his own.

I love keeping tabs on my friends’ latest pets adorable tricks, or the most recent milestones of my contemporaries’ kids, but my voyeur-exhibitionist balance isn’t quite 50-50.  Don’t get me wrong, if ever I’ve done something to be proud of, passed an exam, lost some weight or finished an endurance festival, you’d be the first to know and I’ll satiate you with dozens of pics popping up on your screen.

But everyday pictures of how thoroughly I brushed my teeth (not all the time), what I do at the mall (groceries and picking up leftover sushi from esposa hermosa, shhh) and what’s left for me to do when superbored (rearrange my toy collection, run around the block again, sigh) aren’t exactly compelling details and must-see viewing for the YouTube addicts out there.  So they will remain unchronicled and unvideoed, to my everlasting regret. 🙂

Additional reasons for not being a compulsive FB post-er and page-clutterer:

I don’t want to fill up your page more than it is already.  It’s already filled up with good causes, cute videos and timely reminders from well-meaning people.  Well, well-meaning and good intentioned is fine with me, as long as I don’t have to do it all the time.  And you remember what they said about the road to hell right?

I already blog so much it’s not funny anymore.  Sorry for that, but it’s become a regular thing for me now.  The wordpress and facebook sites are connected, and each time I post a blog, it comes out on my FB page, a necessary evil offered up to the altar of interconnectedness and social networking without which we could not thrive in today’s universe.  So if I add anything beyond the blogs, sobra na po.  But thanks for bearing with me.

I’m on a low broadband plan.  If you’ll believe it, there are no TelstraClear cables around where I reside, and the explanation I got from the Pasig call center sounding helpdesker is that while they’re striving to extend their coverage, for my particular area they’re “riding” on their friendly competitor, Telecom NZ.  That means the usual 60-gigabyte plan I’m on has been down to 25, which is the maximum allowed (there are limits on how much you want to help your business rival, after all).  For my compulsive blogging alone, that’s stretching it, and there is the usage of other people in my cave to consider.  Don’t forget Yahoo!, chikka and all the other strings that attach me to the Philippines and wherever home is, sniff sniff!

I don’t know what your definition is of a Facebook person.  For all I know I may already be one.  But as far as I’m concerned, my Facebook activity has already reached the upper limit, and if I should reciprocate what I see on other people’s pages, I think I have to respectfully decline.  I hope that doesn’t stop you though from doing what you’re doing, cuz I love visiting your Facebook page !

Thanks for reading !

Nexus between alternate realities : Pistang Hamilton & beach cleanup

[Note from Noel : Belated happy birthdays to Mr Oliver Uy and Prof Harry Roque and happy birthday to Engr Nelson Tan ! Good luck to all the participants of Pistang Pilipino 2011, particularly the Wellington and Auckland teams and contestants, and don’t forget to congratulate each other after every game OKs? ]

EVEN BEFORE I saw the YouTube teaser I had a pretty good idea what the Pistang Pilipino 2011 to be held in Hamilton, New Zealand would contain : a beauty pageant, talent quest, the all-important basketball-dominated sportsfest, and mini-reunions everywhere between Pinoys separated by fate, job assignments and love.

And if you look at the teaser yourself, you will see all the well-loved activities that unite and bond Filipino communities everywhere: Pinoys love to showcase their superlatives under the bright lights, grace under pressure, and to celebrate the best among the best, be it physical beauty, athletic talent, or the performing arts.  All under one umbrella, and that of course is the Pistang Pilipino 2011 hosted by Hamilton, involving almost all the Pinoy communities throughout the Land of the Great White Cloud, New Zealand.

It’s a safe bet that anyone who’s part of the Pinoy community who has any form of talent, and who’s adhered to any of the basketball clubs throughout Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, or any of the another cities and towns in all of the regions will attend this annual gathering of migrants from the Pearl of the Orient.  And if you can’t make it, you will either eat your heart out by listening to the tales of those who made it, or promise yourself to make it next year.

Each major event, be it the beauty pageant (Ms Philippines NZ), the talent quest or the sports fest, not only has its own Facebook page, most of the participants therein have their own FB pages where you can participate by “liking” your favorites, interact with the actors, or inquire about related activities that take place year round, not just during the Pistang Pilipino.  There are various activities that you can enjoy, and if they are not for free, admission may be gained for very reasonably priced tickets.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Over at the Bay of Plenty on the eastern NZ coast, not far away from Hamilton, a different kind of community bonding is set to take place.  Pinoy volunteers since early this week (17-23 October) have been raring to take part in beach cleanups as a result of the MV Rena grounding in early October.

We don’t have to emphasize that of the principal actors in this tragedy, one was and is a kabayan, and therefore most of us feel the pangs of conscience to pick up not just the solidified oil that has washed up on beaches but the contents of containers displaced (as much as 50-70 forty-foot containers) from the Rena.

Operation Beach Clean Up very courteously told the various Pinoy volunteer groups that, while their assistance was very welcome, logistics and the excess of volunteers required that most of the Pinoy volunteers cool their heels until further notice. [ Thanks for forwarding the e-mail, Mr Ody Lumanglas ! ]

Well, at least we wanted to help. Kudos to the organizers and Hamiltonian hosts of Pistang Pilipino 2011, advance congratulations to all the winners of the various Pistang Pilipino events, and to the kabayan beach cleanup volunteers : mabuhay kayong lahat !


OFW in Reverse

Toronto from CN tower just before the new year...

Image via Wikipedia

[ NOte from NOel : IRONY ALERT :  At least half of the things said here today are in the ironic sense or tongue-in-cheek, please react accordingly, though we are grateful still in advance for your attention, thanks! ]

 Dear kabatch, classmates, schoolmates, kabayan, Maroonmates, officemates, Huttmates and friends :

 AFTER NEARLY SIX YEARS of not sharing the same living space, Panganay and I recently became housemates rather abruptly, if not unceremoniously.  The last time I was with him I was still an angry 40-year old unable to come to terms with the unrealized dreams and failures that come with impending middle age. After what seemed like an eternity later, I have now accepted the realities of things I must live with, successes out of my reach coupled with worlds still conquerable.

Among these conquerables is a renewed relationship with the firstborn, although the lines defining the stereotype  of father + son are no longer distinct. Too much time has passed and too much faith lost, although lots of faith is there to be regained.  The arrangement is by no means permanent, as you might have already assumed.  Panganay’s outlook is too bohemian for him to stay in one place for more than a few idle moments in the hurly-burly schedule of twentysomethings, I myself am unsure as to how long I can stay in this Kiwi idyll of ferny glens and political correctness, given that my own immigration status is far from stable.

But for now we ( or at least one half of us for sure ) are happy to form an unlikely family, with of course wry-smiling esposa hermosa by my side.

Beyond the bonding, paternal / filial overcompensation and awkwardness in reestablishing familiarity, the congruences end.  Because of the basic disconnect in goals, methodology and values, it’s hard for either of us to see the wisdom in what the other does.

For one thing, Crazy Good Son ( one of my nicknames for him, although he’s not aware of it ) is in a state of flux.  An unexpected turn of events the last few years has gifted him with near-permanent resident status courtesy of his mom, and if God continues to smile on him and nothing goes awry, he will shortly become a citizen of the First World without so much as lifting a finger.

I am uncertain as to how conscious he is of his extreme good fortune, given the thousands of hopeful migrants ( not just Pinoys ) who gamble away life’s savings and the best years of their lives annually just for a chance to become permanent residents of NZ and Australia; that employment, career (and consequently income) opportunities improve probably about tenfold as one enters a job market with infinitely less competition and exponentially better work conditions; that the practically limitless possibilities to improve on one’s professional education all but assure him of a better life ahead; on a daily basis I would love to lecture him on his outrageous fortune, but his above-average intelligence tells him he has struck the job equivalent of marrying the provincial warlord’s daughter.

Instead, he spends much of his waiting time studying the odds, discovering exactly how to maximize his newfound luck with the least bit of effort (no surprises there) and qualifying his idleness from being “forced” (by the processing time of his documentation ) to being philosophical idleness, namely one “of choice.”

I remember one of our first conversations outside the Philippines when, aware of his considerable free time while waiting for the good news (of his Returning Resident’s Visa issuance, as the life-changing document is known ) I asked him if he wanted me to ask around for informal jobs/chores for him to perform, in case he needed something to do.

Nakakaawa naman ang mga unemployed Papa, ibigay mo na sa kanila.  Kanila na mga mowing and cleaning, he counterpunched, half in jest but obviously not that crazy about joining the workforce in such a manner.

Right away, also semi-jokingly ( but semi-seriously too ) I noted two things in his response :  His acute ( but rather misplaced ) concern for the unemployment situation here (at an all-time high) and his apparent ambivalence to doing menial jobs, which after all is work that is honorable in any society, no matter how sophisticated or stratified the latter.

Hindi naman po, and his combination of reasons were that it wouldn’t be a good look to take away jobs that should rightfully go to youth that grew up around the community, and that the dance crew he had joined was occupied with contests and busking for Christchurch earthquake victims.  Who could argue with that ? I mused, seeing your son so creative and concerned with helping the unlucky ?  So that was that, at least for a while.

I know what you’re thinking, ha?  Sign up for work anywhere and anytime you can find it, apply first before finding out if you’re qualified, never hurts to try, and as long as you  buy bread (or rice) with the wages, work is work is work.  All the above proverbs true not only for you, me and our fellow countrymen, but for every newcomer off-the-boat, giddy to try his luck in the land of Promise.

As it was not my place to judge and in light of the abovementioned modified relationship vis-a-vis Senior and Junior, I held my tongue.  Besides, his YouTube posts looked so cool, he might even be on the short list for Talentadong Pinoy, if ever there was a Kiwi version.  Who was I to rain on his parade?

**     **     **     **     **

Before long, my busybodying daddy instincts got the better of me once more.

You know, you could actually test the waters by just making initial inquiries about jobs you might like, without actually tipping your hand, just look at ALL those I.T. vacancies posted by all those ATTRACTIVE-sounding companies with their flashy logos and sexy compensation packages I said, broaching the topic over his favorite sinigang na hipon one night  after work, a not-too-subtle nudge directing him toward an early-bird job hunt…

Was I naive or something?  his eyebrows countered asap, although his retort was respectful enough.  Una pong tatanungin nila Are you a permament resident, di naman ako pwedeng magsinungaling, maaalala nila sagot ko kahit sa initial interview, naisip ko na po yon he he, and again, that was that.

**     **     **     **     **

I don’t have to tell you though that I’ve heard of countless Pinoys who’ve gone straight from the airport to pounding the CBD pavement (jetlag notwithstanding), bringing crisp CVs from home and ready to swipe away an earnest job interview, and a prospective job at that, from any faint-hearted, or hesitant Kiwi having second thoughts about a precious job candidacy.  THIS was the attitude I thought that Panganay needed to arm himself with, weeks away from joining the rat race for a Jay-Oh-Bee.

Left unsaid, in all my second-guessing about his jobsearch aversion, was the lack of hunger : he wasn’t, like me ( or millions of other job hopefuls ), a family man desperate for a family income, he wasn’t shouldering a rent budget with equally desperate job candidates, had no debts to pay, and no one to send money home to.  There was no pressure on him to find work urgently.  In short, he wasn’t the typical new OFWIt wasn’t his fault, but he was undermotivated to prove himself as one of the planet’s pre-eminent heat-seeking missiles when it came to work, the Pinoy OFW.

Oh for sure he had it in him to find a great job, having better-than-average smarts, the requisite social skills, more than capable of selling the concept of here I am and this is what I can do, hiring me is the best idea you’ll come up with this week and maybe next.

But (deep sigh) until he woke up from his OMG-I’ve-actually-gotten-here reverie, he wasn’t going to be challenged, mentally or physically, anytime soon.

**     **     **     **     **

What I’d suspected, that he was in no real hurry to join the workforce (except on his own narrow terms), came into sharp relief a few days ago, when I told him that a friend mentioned that a gig might be available cleaning dishes and disinfecting lavatories.

He bristled at the idea of performing such tasks, asking if he could instead wait on tables or just take orders, and mentioned in passing that he preferred cafes over eating places, because the dishes would be easier to clean.

Look anak, you have to start somewhere, and you could use it as an immersion experience, seeing how it is to work without actually being formally engaged.  And wouldn’t you like to feel how it is to work for money you’re spending?  I told him, careful not to offend and using such as a teachable moment.

What he answered was, to say the least, a rude awakening for me.

Hindi ako nag-aral Pa para gawin yung job na ganyan, kahit naman siguro ikaw na nakatapos ng pag-aaral pagiisipan nyo nang mabuti bago tanggapin ang kahit na anong work.  Di po ako namimili (pero ganun na nga diba?) pero maghahanap muna ako ng iba.

And with that, I realized how wide the chasm was between his job attitudes and mine.

**     **     **     **     **

In seaching for a way to end this cautionary tale, a DVD I saw, Wall Street  the sequel came to mind.  The aging but still debonair Michael Douglas tells Shia LeBouf in a subway scene that the most important asset these days is not businesses, land or property, but time.  Anyone who has the luxury of time can do whatever he/she wants, and the convenience of doubling back to correct one’s mistakes.

In my humble view, the greatest asset that not just Panganay but many people of his age group possess is time, although I hope he does not, in his quest to achieve job perfection, squander too much of his precious asset.

Thanks for reading !








Belated Birthday Thoughts for The Incredible Tita Lily / LBY / Mrs Yang

I AM almost never at a loss for words.  In a previous life, I may have been a lexicographer, a surrogate writer of love letters (like the main character in G Garcia Marquez’s Love In The Time of Cholera), or a royal speechwriter.  I am at ease expressing myself, especially using the written word.
Which is why I’m a bit surprised, putting pen to paper, when attempting to communicate my thoughts about a particular person who came to mind on her birthday.  She is not so much remarkable as she is incredible, as she has made, in my life among many others, an impact that is beyond compare.  I am momentarily unable to say what I feel.
At least, I will try.  There are many, many instances on which I have witnessed the greatness of this person, but on one particular occasion she asked me to help sort out items which she had stored in boxes from decades past.  Through the years, she never threw out anything which she felt was a record of her busy life, and as a result she had a room full of journals, envelopes, folders and assorted containers of artifacts of her life.
She asked me to take my time, not to rush, and to sort things by the year, and to consult her first before dumping anything. 
My first impression was that not a scrap of paper was thrown away from the last four, maybe five decades.  Receipts, lists, notes, letters, bills, statements, mass cards, novena cards, promissory notes, greeting cards.  Every scrap of paper that documented the length and breadth of human transactions, business, personal and whatever else, was stored in those boxes.  
The one thing that stood out, and which made a real impression on me was the consistency of two particular things :  Cancelled cheques and thank you cards.
Over and over again, this remarkable person issued cheques almost every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year.  She issued cheques for tuition payments for children she would never see, bill payments for people she hardly knew, donation remittances for charities she had hardly heard from, and even utility payments for people who could no longer support themselves. 
She was an equal opportunity, across-the-board, all-weather philanthrophist, although her favorite activity, I noticed, was writing greeting and gift cards herself, replying to thank you cards, and buying big bags of sweets and delicacies, then dividing them up for redistribution for nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces.
Like a freshly-glazed mirror image, all these perfectly reflected what she was/is at work.  I was fortunate enough to be a worker bee three years at 105 Paseo de Roxas and most of my free time, I chose to hang around in her office, which never ran out of tasty merienda, candy, chichirya and Friday club provisions.
I never saw her turn down a request for help as long as her inner compass pointed to the request as legitimate.  Three quarters of the time, she knew the assistance, in the form of loans, would take forever and a day to return, the remaining quarter she chalked up to spreading good karma that would eventually find its way back to her.
And find its way it did, in a BIG way, tenfold or more probably.  Because she is blessed in almost every way; she has resources for herself and everybody else (and the number is considerable) who depend on her; friends relatives and loved ones that keep multiplying like YouTube hits; health and a youthful countenance that doesn’t quit, and above all a positive outlook that renews itself everyday.
It would be no exaggeration to say that she has sent more or less a thousand children to school, been primarily responsible for the professional careers of hundreds of practicing doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and nurses, sent so many migrant hopefuls (including myself) on their way to their land of promise, and paid for the life-saving hospital expenses of people who otherwise might never been able to shoulder it themselves.
Besides the magnitude of this once-in-a-lifetime generosity, the collateral wonder is that unless the moon is blue, the sun is dancing or Halley’s comet has chanced to pass by, you would never hear about it, all these unceasing gestures of altruism, least of all from her.  And she probably prefers it that way.
**               **               **
It’s a very belated birthday greeting that I have for her, almost a week past.  I’m ashamed for myself, after all she has done for me, my children, my brothers, my parents, and everyone else in my family.  It comes as no surprise that she has been like this all her life, to co-worker, colleague, neighbor, co-CWL devotee, co-parishioner, and has never made a distinction between relative and friend; even people who have not been kind to her have been recipients of her legendary kindness.
I have only one other anecdote about her, among so many others, and this concerns her driver, Mang Gaudencio.  He and his three sons, along with the rest of his family, have been helped by her sterling recommendations on the way to good jobs and stable lives.  Mang Gaudi told me once that, despite his age, if his employer ever needed them and his organs (any of them) were still serviceable, he would gladly donate his kidney, liver, eyes, lungs or heart to her.  And he would consider himself richer for it.
[ The knee-jerk reaction I felt was that why did he think of it ahead of me?  Because no greater source of pride would I have than to be able to say that a part of me could be used by this person I’m talking about, now. ]
He was probably exaggerating when he said it, but I couldn’t blame him.  For besides my parents, I know of no other person who has so enriched my life, in terms of her immeasurable  and inspiring selflessness, as this person.  I once thought that it would take my entire lifetime to repay her for all the things she has done for me.  Now I know that one lifetime is simply not enough.
Belated happy birthday Tita Lily / LBY, you are definitely one of a kind.  Speaking for myself and the rest of the Bautista and SycipLaw families, I love you very much, thank you for being in our lives !
Your nephew