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Archive for April, 2008

I know this is quite a late post considering that Manny Pacquiao’s most recent victory happened at least a month ago. It’s just that, it is only now that I remember to write about him, something that I planned to do as soon as he won over Juan Manuel Marquez last month. Before going any further, I must confess that I am not a boxing aficionado (just dead serious about following any kababayan who is making good anywhere in the world). I do not know the rules in boxing, and my comments here are based on my general knowledge about how people should conduct themselves and relate with other people. In other words, this is a layman’s view on boxing and boxers. A raw if not a naive assessment of what is observable in the situations and stories I will mention here.

Anyway, I remembered about PacMan and this article I am supposed to write just last night, when my husband and I were talking about Amir Khan. Amir Khan is UK’s “worldclass boxer”, to put it in their own words. He is a 22-year old rather good looking guy who bears a slight resemblance to our very own Carlos Agassi. He is of Pakistani descent but born, raised and schooled in the UK. He is hailed here as their golden boy in boxing – mind you, he never lost a fight yet.

In his last fight earlier this month, he went against a seasoned boxer who is slightly older than him. He won the fight, but I saw in him a reckless fighter, one who should acquire more finesse in his techniques. Most importantly, I am of the opinion that he should fine-tune his manners in the ring just a little bit more. There was a round during that particular match that he continued to rain punches on his opponent EVEN when the latter was already down on his knees, head ducked and arms raised in an attempt to ward off Khan’s beating.

This YouTube video contains that particular portion of the fight I am talking about:

At that time, I could not help but compare him with our very own PacMan. I have seen Manny in his numerous fights and always, when he brings his opponent down, he immediately runs to the neutral corner. In fact, I used to think he should have “finished off” the fight by sustaining the barrage of punches, but then ignorant me did not care much about ethics and manners of fighters. I was just concerned that my countryman wins. Until I saw how it looks like when etiquette and good taste are thrown out the window.

In Khan’s case, the referee did not stop him soon enough from punching even with the other boxer’s disadvantaged position. It’s not that the referee was remiss in his duties – just a tad late in his reaction. However, as a fighter, I don’t think Amir Khan needed anyone to remind him of the rules if he really was a gentleman in the ring. I am not saying that he should not have won – he did by all accounts. I am just concerned about his heart, his character as a fighter.

That is why, I can’t help but admire our very own Manny Pacquiao even more. He fought with men he called his idols when he was younger, and he gained them as friends after defeating them. This speaks of his humility and character. Again, as an inexperienced observer, I think this is Manny’s secret of success. He has the heart of a real champion – fighting bravely but not forgetting being humane and respecting his opponents. In a sport as ruthless and sometimes bloody like boxing, it is easy to forget how to respect one’s opponents. Which Manny never did.

I asked my husband if there was any chance Manny could come here to the UK to face Amir Khan (I have no idea how arrangements for those title bouts and matches work). He said that Khan is not yet within Manny’s “radar” – whatever that means. But Amir Khan is good, too and having won all his fights, it proves that he is on his way to greater things. With the way the boy is hailed here, it should not be very long before he gets to meet our very own. Then, he should learn a thing or two about our gentleman fighter that is Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao – the man with the quintessential rags-to- riches story, a true Filipino who never forgets to bring his entire country, culture and heritage to the ring and one who makes us proud, brings us to our knees to pray for his victory all the time and inspires us to triumph even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable difficulties in our lives individually and as a nation.

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Pinay’s Got Talent!

There is this rather interesting talent contest here in the UK called Britain’s Got Talent. It is a kind of a “mixed bag” talent search, with all sorts of people joining who are only too eager to display their talents or their lack thereof. It is quite amazing what lengths some people go to, either to have their shot at fame or simply to humiliate themselves on national television.

There was this septuagenarian lady whom I saw lying face down on a bed of nails – that’s her talent! There were others who brought in their pets to do all sorts of acts. Sad to say, a huge majority of them did not get through the next round. I can say, they had more guts than talent. The auditions are still ongoing so there must be more of this bunch of hopefuls broadcasting their sorry lack of anything special to share on stage, except for their guts, of course.

Late last night, my husband and I had the chance to see a re-run of the auditions (Manchester City edition). The very last contestant featured in the edited version of the Manchester auditions was a Filipina! We were aware that there is a Filipina among the hopefuls because a friend got texted about it. Even with droopy eyes, we watched that final portion of the program.

This airtime dedicated to the Pinay contestant already gave her an edge over the other hopefuls, as she enjoyed an opportunity to be introduced to the viewing public, who will eventually decide on the fate of all the contestants through text voting. With this, I sincerely hope she will have a big advantage over the others.

Her name, Madonna Decena is not your usual Filipino name, but her looks sure does indicate that she is a kababayan – a petite morena (brown skin). Aside from her looks, her singing voice also is a telling sign that this lady is a Filipina, as the Philippines is known to have a healthy supply of good singers.

As expected, this Pinay working as a club singer here in the UK, has a tearjerker of a life she left behind in the Philippines. A single mum, her two daughters are being cared for by her parents and are constantly asking when their “Nanay” (Tagalog for mother) can go home to them. This separation from her family, especially her two babies, must be tough for Madonna.

During the short interview prior to her act, the judges (one of whom is the ascetic Simon Cowell – but I adore him!) asked Madonna why she joined the contest. Around four words into her answer, she broke into tears. She said that she joined for the sake of her two daughters. The lady judge, the beauteous Amanda, completely empathized as she had tears in her eyes after Madonna’s act, when she was commenting on the performance and almost predicting that she will make it and earn money to fly her daughters to be with her.

The hard-to-please Simon Cowell was practically open-mouthed as Madonna was performing and Judge no. 3, Piers, had that satisfied, indulgent smile permanently fixed on his face all the time Madonna was singing. Of course, Amanda was very impressed, too!

The studio audience was mesmerized, to say the least, and they gave Madonna a standing ovation afterwards. I then realized, it does not take much to please the Brits, after all. They were just so amazed at the singing they were treated to. The cynic in me wants to think that perhaps, they were not just expecting that kind of voice to come from a petite kababayan. But that is the “evil” in me.

Simon Cowell’s words after the audition were: “For an act like that, it was definitely worth coming up here (meaning Manchester).” How’s that? It is a nice feeling to have witnessed a kababayan please this man.

Right after her audition, and Madonna getting three “yes’s” from the judges, she called her daughters and told them the good news. It was clear that the girls call her “Nanay” by her daughters, which made me teary-eyed. The word evokes a lot of patriotic feelings from the deepest recesses of my heart and thoughts and total being. It makes me think of Amorsolo-type of rustic, rural scenes.

Madonna’s story is too common among Filipinos leaving the Philippines. In search of greener pastures, my countrymen leave by the millions every year, hoping that other lands could offer them the brighter future that is too elusive for them in their own homeland. It is pathetic, senseless, heart-breaking. But it is happening.

I pray that Madonna will win the 2008 Britain’s Got Talent competition for the sake of her two young daughters she is hoping to fly over to the UK to be with her. She will be up against great British talents – from a dancing dog to a 13-year old boy who sings with an operatic, angelic voice, but this Pinay, sure has got something going for her and I hope the British public will like it.

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Is Your English Good?

This post is almost a year old. I am re-posting it here because it seems appropriate to mention some of my earliest experiences as an expatriate in this blog. This blog is all about my being away from home and this particular experience emphasizes just that.

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I am one person not easily let down. I mean, I am very secure about myself and I know that no matter how other people treat me, I am valuable in God’s eyes. That is where I am coming from when I relate with other people.

This mindset was put to good use when I went to this government office here in the UK to apply for an insurance number (a social security number). I was the only non-White among the group scheduled for interview at 9:00 that Friday morning. The receptionist collected appointment letters from all of us and when she got to me, she asked: “Is your English good?” Instinctively, I answered in the affirmative, not really thinking that ‘good’ might be relative. I also thought at that moment that she was just doing her job and it would be a concern if I was to need an interpreter during the interview.

Once in the interview area, two staff members approached the two white men ahead of me. They started interviewing each of the guys and it was then that I heard that they were Polish and did not speak English – well, just a little. I watched open-mouthed as this tiny English lady struggled to explain herself and to get one of the Polish guys to produce an identification card.

Nosy me could not restrain myself from interrupting them and suggesting that maybe we should show the guy an example of an ID as I rummaged through my bag trying to fish for my provisional driver’s license (or was that just an excuse to show it off as I just received it earlier that week?).

The mischievous side of me wanted to break into a guffaw when I witnessed that scene. Two white people – a tiny lady and a towering gentleman, straining to understand each other. I, a small Asian woman, was watching them with bemusement and a wicked sparkle in my eyes.

And then it hit me. It was just too ironic that the receptionist presumed that those people with the same skin color as hers would be able to speak English and that I might not be able to. She knew that those guys were Polish but she didn’t ask them if they could speak English. Maybe she just used skin color as basis for her screening questions.

Too often people use appearance as basis for judging a person. This brings to mind God’s word to the prophet Samuel: “Man looks at the appearance but I look at the heart.” Maybe, if we all know how to look deeper into a person, words like apartheid, discrimination and racism would not be in Mr. Webster’s list of words.

And if you are wondering what turned out of that interview, two young Polish guys who spoke good English arrived for the same interview. The two interviewers requested them to interpret for their countrymen. God provides – and how.

So that was how my first encounter with discrimination went. I am thankful that it was mild enough for me to just look at it as an amusing topic to write about. It is easy to miss the point why a newly-arrived foreigner like me makes a big fuss out of a question like “Is your English good?” if you haven’t lived among white people so far away from home. But being in England for the first time – and unemployed at that, makes me touchy, perhaps, or too zealous to protect my dignity as a person.

Maybe the situation was also God’s way of telling me He really goes beyond skin colors – being the God of all nations. He was just as concerned with those men to be able to get insurance numbers so that they could work and be able to send money to their families, too. Yes, they came here for the same reasons that I did – to find greener pastures. And God cares that they be able to find jobs, too.

I thank Him for allowing me to see the situation from His point of view, and for preparing me for possibly more overt means of discrimination. Why, I can never can tell when the experience comes in handy, right?

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My sister-in-law is working as a domestic helper in Singapore. I am hesitant to share her story here because I feel ashamed, not because she is “just a DH”. On the contrary, I am proud of her because she is willing to earn a decent living even if it means going way below her educational status. I am ashamed because I find it hard to accept that one of my own is being treated without dignity and respect. I was against her going to Singapore from the very start. She is a Mass Communication graduate, very smart, personable and she could have easily landed a call center job or something like that. However, she was adamant, as (I sensed) she was desperate to have a better life or maybe, she thought going abroad is always the better option. So, she left her husband and one-year old daughter in 2006 for greener pastures.

Her Singaporean employer thinks it is alright to treat Filipinos in a lowly manner. You see, he never allowed my sister-in-law to hold her own salary. The employer himself sends all the money to my SIL’s husband back in the Philippines. Worse, my dear SIL never ever had a day-off since she arrived in that country. We were shocked to hear that she signed a contract not allowing her to have a day-off (I told you, she was a bit desperate) at all.

I have a lot of issues regarding this matter. First, the employer is way too cruel for me because he thinks it is humanly possible to work straight for two years (the duration of the contract) without ever having to rest a single day! Don’t you think it is quite stupid to think that? Moreover, that is downright illegal because Singaporean laws require that foreign domestic workers should have at least a day off every week. Then, he does not have the right faculties to trust “lowly” Filipinos with their own salaries! How is that? Maybe, there is something wrong about how this Singaporean was brought up.

He is also paranoid beyond my imagination because I think, he fears that my SIL will talk to authorities about his “illegal” ways of not giving the rightful benefits to his helper, in the event that he allows her a day off. Whatever, he really has a serious problem.

Last but not least, the Filipino agency that drafted my SIL for this job must also be very desperate for money or simply greedy beyond words, for allowing their own countrymen to get into such contracts (no day-off) and on a no-salary-for-six-months repayment scheme. Yes, for the first six months, my SIL did not receive anything because her salary for that period wass supposed to be for paying the placement fee and everything. So, for six months, the families of their draftee-OWFs should starve meantime, or employ survival tactics Filipinos are so known for in order to come out of the 6-month period alive.

This particular arrangement (which I heard is standard for Pinays being deployed to Singapore) is just too inhuman because wages are supposed to be the lifeline of families. They should be given at least 50% of their wages for each month. The repayment period may be longer but at least, the workers’ welfare would have been better protected. But, who is thinking about desperate OFWs’ welfare, anyway?

At the moment, my SIL is dying to go back to the Philippines. I should be happy to be vindicated for my initial disagreement with her plans to go abroad, but I am not. I get depressed everytime I think about how life is with her – not being able to go out for almost two years now, not having a single penny in her wallet, not being trusted.

Of course, I think to some degree, she brought this to herself. She had choices and other opportunities but she chose to go to Singapore instead. But I think that she does not deserve this kind of treatment, nor does anyone else.

In August, she will be completing her contract. Until then, she will have to wait and suffer and endure, like all the other Filipinas who had the misfortune of working for some cruel Singaporean employers.

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For my first real post, I am sharing with you this article which I submitted as an entry to the WikiPilipinas writing contest. As a Pinay blogger, I think it is only appropriate to start this blog with this piece, as it reflects my aspirations for being a Pinay blogger – someone who projects a more positive image for the Filipina. Yes, Filipinas are more than those who are advertised as “desperately-seeking-for-foreign-boyfriends” girls. There is more to the modern Filipina than that – she is a mover, a shaker, a thinker, an opinion leader. In other words, a thinking, sensible individual capable of competing with the best in the world. Read on…

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As a blogger, I get to know a lot of things, information and amazing individuals in the blogging community. Most of the sites I frequent are owned by women. I cannot fully comprehend the enormous amount of talents these women have – from photography to writing, from spotting the best deals in groceries and online stores to raising kids. It is indeed amazing how girl power rocks the blogosphere.

One pleasant surprise that I stumbled upon is the fact that a considerable percentage of these talented women who bare their lives and souls and give their two cents’ worth online are Filipinas. And as Filipinos go, these women are located all over the world. You can find them in every continent and in almost every category of blogs – Lifestyle, Parenting, Shopping, anything.

If their blogging lives are to be indicators, they seem to be living their lives to the fullest, enjoying their families, earning serious money, conquering the world and boy, are they all proud to be Pinays. They sport widgets depicting the Philippine flag in their interface, they declare it in their personal profiles and they include “Filipino/Filipina” or “Pinoy” as topic categories.

Their sites are neat, clean, well-presented – much like the homes we have in the Philippines. Their blogs are family-friendly and screaming of the decency and conservative nature Pinays are known for. But that does not mean they aren’t updated. Their blogs sport bling-blings and they showcase technical skills in managing their sites like tweaking them to suit their personalities. They discuss about sensible topics as well as personal subjects like their families, favorite cuisine or careers. They are politically aware – some of them even displaying badges to show their support for some cause or their disgust for some politician.

The blogger image of the modern Pinay is one to be admired, and should be an accurate indicator of where the modern Filipina is. They write well as most of them have a good command of the English language. These Pinays who live virtual lives which are not so far from their real ones are well-educated, well-informed and well-bred in the way they carry themselves as netizens. This is evident in the topics they discuss and in the way they project themselves as responsible members of the blogging community.

They are brave to speak their minds, proud to bare their true selves and sexuality and do not hesitate to challenge anything that they think is worth their time fighting for or commenting on. They support worthy causes and extend their helping hand to any blogger they think needing their help. They promote knowledge and information sharing with their innate love for “huntahan”, only this time, they do it online.

Harnessing the dynamic presence of these women in cyberspace to present a solid, positive image of Filipinas for all the world to see is a big step towards gaining more respect for the Philippines. For all the trouble that the country is going through, having these online emissaries is like lighting a candle in the dark. We have them as examples of what the Philippines has to offer.

Pinay bloggers are the perfect image carriers of the modern Filipina. Whether they are career women in the Philippines or stay-at-home moms in the US or Australia or even Overseas Filipino Workers in Europe, these Filipinas epitomize the modern woman we all would want the world to know: the ever sweet, ever sensible Pinay of the modern era – always worthy of respect, always proud of her race.

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I am a Filipina living in the UK with my family. I love this country as I consider it my new home, but that does not mean I will ever forget my native Philippines. This blog is all about my journey and the people I have the privilege of meeting along the way. It is about my ramblings on life outside the Philippines, whether it is my own life or that of others that I consider worth sharing.

I maintain another blog called HotMomma, where I reveal another side of me – that of a mom, a woman, a wife. I hope you will enjoy sharing my life through these two blogs.

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