Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Understanding Australians

I must write something about how difficult it is for a Filipino to understand Aussies' accent and slang. When I'm in a conversation with some Aussies, I find myself in full concentration mode... with all my processors working overtime in deciphering the lingo. I don't mean to disparage them really... after all I'm the newcomer and they've been speaking like this for eons.

Here's an excerpt of a conversation I had with another Filipino who's been struggling with it:

- watch out for the flies. You know the hats they sell at the souvenir stores with the corks hanging around? thats not decor- thats to shoo away the flies- you turn your head and the corks swing around to ward off the langaws. Its my theory that Ozs talk with a mummble because they'd be eating the flies if they open their mouths wide.

David Valdes:

Ha ha ha... good one... especially the mumbling part. minsan ang hirap nilang intindihan. And don't ever let them spell out words that you dont understand. It's even worse! This morning I asked an agent where the house for rent was... I couldnt understand her so I asked her to spell it out: E-m-e-r-o-o Street daw... hanap ako ng hanap ng Emeroo... wala naman!

Finally nahanap ko na... Amaroo street pala. Ano ba yan?!?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bee Dee Bags

Well for all you guys who like to read the details, here's my kuwento on how I got myself a new job in Oz.

Sometimes I wonder what crazy thought went into us to make this big, bold move to Australia... Every so often I have to remind myself that it is for the kids...

It hasn't been easy looking for a place to stay and job searching at the same time. After so many years of being so complacent and being secure... I suddenly realize that I'm no longer used to dealing with so much uncertainty in my life. But somehow things are falling in place. I've never been the religious type but suddenly I'm just very aware somebody up there is still in charge and watching over us.

When I arrived at Sydney I knew that I had to go to Wagga Wagga as soon as I could because everyday spent in Sydney was a day that could have been spent looking for work in Wagga. But it was tough even looking for a temporary place to stay in Wagga. I didnt want to spend weeks in an expensive motel. Like I said, my guardian angel must be working overtime because my contact here, David Bardos, approached his neighbor and was able to convince them to let me rent a spare room.

On the job front, I'd been applying for jobs but there hasn't been that many for marketing executives considering that Wagga is a small city with limited jobs for executives. But as fate would have it, David Bardos introduced me to his boss, Colin Taggert, the publisher who is also a recent migrant from Scotland. Colin could only offer me a sales job which he felt wasn't really along my line. So he suggested that I make a call to Bruce Dicker who is noted to be quite approachable. Bruce is a 67 year old entrepreneur based in Wagga who runs Bee Dee bags.

So that's what I did. I made a cold call to his office, spoke to a lady, and dropped Colin's name. Next thing I know, Bruce is on the other line agreeing to have coffee with me. The powers of networking! Bruce has a great story to tell. He joined the air force in Wagga in the 50s as an aircraft mechanic and after leaving the military, he decided to work in a hardware store and eventually decided to make it on his own. He started selling freezer bags loaded into his car and went for weeks on end selling his bags to groceries in the region. Eventually his business grew. But he really became "the bag man" when he boldly went off to China to seek out the source of the paper bags he was buying from middle men. Eventually he invested in the Chinese factory in Jiamusi, in the north east of China where he now gets all his stock. He jokingly calls his Chinese wife, the secret of his success in doing business in China. I think Bee Dee Bags sells over AUD$12 million of shopping bags a year.

Well, Bruce and I seemed to hit it off over coffee last week. He fondly remembers his one and only trip to Manila in the late 80s and could still recall the standard "Mabuhay" and "Salamat" salutations. Not a man to mince words, he asked me what I did for a living and if I was looking for a job. And again as fate would have it... Bee Dee Bags does need an executive who can help put more structure into the fast growing company. They need someone who can help them professionalize their marketing and operations. I could not have asked for a better fit.

The next day I was having lunch with his management team. Exactly one week from the day I had coffee with him, Bruce made me a job offer. One side of me wanted to jump up and down and give the team a group hug... but I played it cool and told him that I would give my answer on Friday. Not that I think it will take me that long to read and examine his 3 page job offer. Just wanted to make sure I'm not making any rash emotional decisions. It looks likely though that I'll be signing the offer and starting work this coming Monday.

Too me, all of this is unraveling into an amazing story of coincidence, destiny and grace from the Almighty . I hope and pray this story continues to be a happy one.

Now to find a house.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wagga Wagga

Dear Dad,

How are things? I thought I'd write this email to you and just let Adelle print it out for you.

Oks naman ako dito. I spent a little over a week in Sydney... I had to wait until I could find a place to stay in Wagga Wagga... my friend here was able to get me a rented room at the house of a young filipino couple in Wagga. I bought a second hand Honda CRV so that I could drive to Wagga which is about 5 hours away. I also bought a GPS so that I wouldnt have a hard time navigating. This device can navigate for you. Just punch in the house number, street and city... and it will give you directions verbally and visually to the destination. It works using satellite signals.

So i drove to Wagga last Feb 23 and since then Ive been trying to get a feel of the place and also applying to a few jobs which Ive seen online. I attended a conference on the "regional" (read: provincial) economy which was great because I met a lot of people from the city hall (they call it council) and from some big businesses here. Working for the council is a big possibility for me because they pay well and are prime employers here (unlike in the Philippines where you would hate to work for the government).

So far I think it was a good choice for me to choose Wagga because they are only slightly affected by this crisis. Wagga is the center of an area called Riverina, where much of Australias wine comes from. There are a lot of cattle here as well and Cargill, one of the world's largest agri companies, operates here. Many consumers from the small towns come over to Wagga during the weekend to shop so it is also a big retail center. It is like an Alabang Town Center with lots of residential areas surrounding the main city center and main street where all the shops are. There are 2 malls which are right beside each other. Not very large but you can have all the city conveniences you can find there.

Internet connection is expensive here because the population density isnt high so you can imagine the infrastructure cost. But otherwise, I'm surprised that much of everything else (hard goods like appliances) is about the same price as manila. Food might even be cheaper here. But what is really expensive are the services. Anything that requires any sort of labor is expensive like restaurants, haircuts, car repairs, healthcare, etc. Shops close early here (5pm) but at least the grocery is open till 10pm.

Today I tried exercising on my road bike (I brought it partially dismantled from Manila!) for the first time. I rode about 23kms. short ride lang but very nice. Theres a small lake nearby that is very picturesque. Sun sets here at around 8pm so many people exercise right after getting off at 5pm. The weather is extremes. In the daytime it gets hot up to about 32 C but at night it goes down to about 13 C. Sometimes I go to bed in shorts and I wake up at around 2am to put on a sweater and pants because of the cold. Parang the house gets warm and keeps it inside but later on the cold just gets in. and its just summer. Soon it will get colder as autumn comes in around April.

Bye for now.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Moving to Australia

Dear Friends,

It would have nice to have been able to tell you personally about my plans but unfortunately time isn't on my side. After a deep assessment of my family's future, particularly of my two young children (one of whom has special needs), we have decided to relocate to Australia.
It was a difficult decision to make considering that our entire family has spent most of our lives in the Philippines and have no regrets for the wonderful years we have spent here.

The kids have reacted to this move with mixed feelings. Trianna, our 10 year old girl, is the most emotional. She will sorely miss her cousins, friends and even her closet door which is festooned with stickers full of sentimental attachments. She was somewhat comforted after Elena and I told her that the Philippines will continue to be our home but we have decided that there's no harm in creating a new home in Australia as well. Trianna is as smart as she is sentimental. We're confident she will be able to psyche herself up to the challenge.

Our 14 year old Kiko is raring to go. He feels Australia will be a new and exciting experience for him and he can always make new friends. Kiko is truly special. Although he struggles with algebra and math, he will always easily make friends. We hope Australia can give him the opportunities to achieve a comfortable level of independence when he grows up.

So I leave on February 12 for Sydney, and I will try to establish my new career somewhere in Australia. Hopefully, Elena and the kids will follow around April.

I will give you an update as soon as it is clearer exactly where I will be and what I will be doing... for now, keep in touch and wish us luck!



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dad and Mom's 50th Wedding Anniversary

Moma and Dad just celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary last December 27. Amazing! I can still vividly remember celebrating their 25th Anniv in our house in Q.C. then we also celebrated their 40th in Tagaytay.

This celebration was especially poignant because many of Dad's siblings have passed away... Tito Carlitos, Tita Hermy, Tito Dido, Tito Rick, Tito Jaiming. Most of them passed away barely 12 months ago... Lola Lourdes (Mom's mother) also passed away a few days before the celebration.

Here's the speech I gave during the celebration in honor of my beloved parents:

"Thru out the 50 years of marriage, mom and dad's roles have evolved. As a newly married couple, it was just the two of them. Caring for each other and building their relationship as LOVERS. But when the kids started coming one after the other, they became true PARENTS. One as the PROVIDER, working to bring in the money needed to sustain the family, the other providing the motherly love as a CAREGIVER and selflessly sharing her presence needed to build the kids' personalities and values. Both roles, equally important. Both were ROLE MODELS sacrificing much for the sake of the family. Dad practically had to handle 2 jobs as he shuttled from Bacolod to Manila handling the 2 offices. Mom endured years of stress as the mother of 4 rambunctious kids while Dad often left her alone... to play volleyball in Luguay.

I can't imagine how Mom pulled thru those trying years... I still lay claim to the record of most house damage in the least amount of time. I ruined 50000 worth of chinese antiques in a split second after I cartwheeled into a shelf full of chinese jars. You guys ever wonder why mom gets nervous everytime I get near her chinese stuff? Kaya panay bato, bakal at kahoy na lang ang binibigay niya sa akin pamana. mahilig naman daw ako sa tribal artifacts.

Then, when dad joined the government, mom had to become more entrepreneurial and so she too became a PROVIDER.

They were EDUCATORS too. Mom honing our language skills and Dad terrorizing... Ah este training us in Math. They were COACHES in more ways than one. All of us boys grew up loving sports. But more than that we got an earfull of wise, life-coaching advise... Solicited or unsolicted... but nonetheless very much appreciated.

As we began our careers and started our own families, dad and moms roles continued to evolve. No longer doting parents, they became our SAFETY NETS. Always around to provide us the financial and morale support when needed. Mom can u babysit? Mom can I borrow the car? Dad can u lend me some money? Pay u back in 5 years.

All thru out these changing times, I've always been amazed at how my parents have adapted to these changing roles with so much grace. Sometimes I think it is us kids who have not adapted well to these changes. We falsely think our parents will always be the same way. Forever young and forever a part of growing up.

I recall facing stark reality just a few years ago when I foolishly invited dad to ride my mountain bike. Dad, already in his 70s, rode the bike alright. But I forgot to tell him where the brakes were so he careened downhill, lost control, and flew off the bike, landing face first into the dirt. I distinctly remember wondering what the jail term was for killing your own dad.

Luckily, despite the temporary amnesia, dad recovered without permanent damage. I think. I still get a rush of guilt when he calls me up and forgets why he did. Senior moment lang yun. Di ba dad?

Nowadays, we are all grownup and thru the grace of God we are all healthy, more self sufficient and comfortable, living our lives and bringing up our own families... It may seem that mom and dads roles in our lives aren't as evident.

We think our parents will always be around, ready when we call on them for help, and yet keeping them a safe distance away so they don't cramp our style... .

Many times, instead of showing our gratitude for all the years of parenting, we rebuff them and shun their help.

Ironically, I think our parents way of pushing us to value our independence and to make our own way, is partly what drives this behavior. It is truly their greatest legacy that they have equipped us with the tools to build our own families.

So, Dad and Mom, the next time you feel your help is being snubbed... just remember that its your own fault for teaching us too well!

Yes we can never avoid the fact that our lives are continually changing, our roles evolving. I realize that eventually, our new role will be to care for Mom and Dad as they have cared for us.

One thing will never change, it is the fond memories of life's little lessons, and the love that drives it all. Next year, my family will likely be in Australia, although a part of our hearts will always remain with Mom and Dad. Mom, Dad, don't worry, we will always be there for you even if we're physically away.

I love you Mom. I love you Dad.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pacman Eats up the Golden Boy

Thanks to a couple of free tickets from Dennis, I got to watch the Pacquiao - de la Hoya fight with Kiko in Rockwell (live via satellite).

I think this is the first time I've gone inside a dark theater to watch a boxing match. It was full and luckily we had guaranteed numbered seats. You could feel the excitement of the crowd as he pre-event matches finally wound down. And when Pacquiao first appeared on screen, wrapping his own hands (!) as Roach looked on, the crowd began to clap and a muffled roar let off from the audience.

Of course I wanted Pacquaio to win but I had serious doubts about him winning against the future hall of famer, de la Hoya. Was I ever so wrong. During the first round, I wasn't too excited and refused to clap at the puny jabs that Pacquaio threw against the golden boy's gloves. He's wary of running into that jab and vaunted left hook of de la Hoya I thought.

Then I saw something remarkable, Manny threw a left hand lead that kicked back Oscar's head. Not that big a punch but you could see Oscar's face change. Wow, I thought, Manny didn't even set that up with a right jab. He just went in and threw it. And in the following rounds, he did it again, and again, often times spinning to Oscar's left and avoiding the expected right counter punch. Amazing! Manny didn't seem to have lost any of his speed.

To sum up the experience, it was a satisfying and jubilant win but I agree with the many pundits that it wasn't even close to the Pacman's best matches.

I personally think that Manny's best fight remains his sensational win against Barrera way back in 2003. The latter was being touted as one of the best boxers ever and Manny was an unheard of Filipino. But Manny shocked the hell out of the boxing community by overwhelming Barrera, stopping him in the 11th round. Manny was amazing in that fight. His combinations quickly landing before Barrera could move.

Well, this last fight with de la Hoya wasn't great but it certainly was memorable. Manny still showed his quickness and a new trait... patience. That it was a mismatch is not Manny's fault really, Oscar was just so slow. Maybe he trained too hard... maybe he just couldn't fight at that low weight.... Maybe he went on a South Beach or an Atkins low carb diet... he he he.

I think Roach said it best. "My fighter trained to win, Oscar trained to make the weight".

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reminiscing in Bacolod

Just got back from Bacolod. I had the good fortune of being invited to back to give a talk to a Rotary Club. I only stayed overnight but it was great to be able to see some of friends who I haven't seen for close to 30 years!

It has been a while since I last visited. Last year I literally passed by on my way to and from Sipalay but I didn't really get to see much of my childhood hometown. Before that, I had visited in 2004 and I did get to see old family friends like the Namins and the Jacintos.

This trip though was especially memorable. I got a surprise call from an old swimming team buddy, Romy Lopez. He and a couple of Batch 81 friends were having an impromptu reunion. He saw my face in the Rotary print ad and decided to invite me as well.

Although I recognized Romy I had to struggle to with the other guys. 30 years! Its amazing I could still remember some of the names. John Bonnin, Bong Gindap, Mayo Unson, Vince Soberano, Dave Alba, Gerard Mora, Gil Octaviano, Baby Legaspi, Ray Tiongson and Jonathan Sales. As we talked though, memories began to flood in and their 40++ year old faces started to become younger and younger as the night wore on. By the 4th beer, I could see all of them as 14 year old faces.

Those were memorable years indeed. We were in the middle of puberty and our hormones were rampaging through our bodies. And the experiences and escapades were retold again and again that night. First loves never really die. Nor do first crushes. We recalled our trip to Siliman U in Dumaguete for a dual meet of the swim teams. Vince and I vividly recall the 2 beautiful mestiza sisters from Siliman who broke records and some young hearts.

Vince is amazing. A 44 year old world title holder in Muay Thai (kickboxing)! He looked like he got carved out of a granite rock. I couldn't believe this guy's passion for his art. He's the real deal. Google him and check out his knock out fights on You Tube.

Romy is the same Romy. He was probably the most down-to-earth nice guy then and even now. He was just one of those reliable and conservative friends, who would never give you any BS. He was one of the most hard working in the swim team. My impression then was he got a solid set of values from his "Papa" (who seemed to never fail to personally pick him up after school). Now he is married to his former bank officemate, and they have a 2 boys, 13 and 7. but surprise, surprise, a girl on the way. We each had a nice bowl of pancit molo soup to wind down the evening at 2am; a truly traditional Illonggo way to nurse a hangover after a night of drinking.

We agreed that I have to come back.... soon. Perhaps a climb up Mt. Kanlaon in November? I remember being very upset at not being permitted to climb this fabled volcano way back in the 70s. Last year, some of the guys sent me an invite to climb but my trip to Switzerland got in the way.

Well I'm aiming for that climb in November... I hope the weather holds out. I've had a streak of bad luck this year caused by weather. Rains prevented a boat trip (and a dive) around El Nido in January, my climb up Guiting-guiting was aborted due to fog, and our voyage to Tubbataha got scuttled due to the early monsoons. Weather weather lang yan.