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Saturday, June 28, 2008

OFW Tale: Candy

It’s been a week since she left home. But she has yet to return.

I’m talking about Candy*, my friendly neighbor. Last Friday, she left for the Immigration Bureau, after receiving notice of the supposed release of her visa. Having recently married a Japanese national, she was now eligible for permanent residency. Or so she thought.

For as the grapevine had it, she was detained upon arrival at the Bureau. Why? For contracting a fake marriage.

Because Candy is actually a “he”. But she looks, speaks, acts and dresses like a woman. She even has “boobies” to boot. In fact, she works as a bargirl in one of the clubs here.

But being an overstaying alien, she was forced to arrange a marriage with a Japanese acquaintance in order to legitimize her stay in Japan. This country has been her home for the last fifteen years and she doesn’t want to go back to the Philippines. Having saved enough to pay-off a partner, she went through what they call here as an “imitation” marriage. That of course, is not uncommon.

She once recalled to me how hard she tried to sport a masculine stance during the wedding. And she funnily recounted the many retakes they had to endure during the photo-sessions, as she simply looked more feminine than her “spouse”.

During the mandatory observation period, the “couple” lived together. And through all this time, Candy had to give her spouse the monthly fee for the marriage, and at the same time support her sustenance. But the immigration agents must have sensed the oddness of the arrangement. In their visit to the couple’s residence, they must have noticed her beautiful lady-like pictures on the wall and those of her erstwhile boyfriend.

Thus, the detention. Now Candy has to acquire the services of a lawyer (read: very expensive!) to get her out of the bind. But even if she gets legal representation, I am sure it would be difficult to disentangle her from the mess. All the physical evidence are against her. What the litigation may result to would just be the invalidation of her marriage, which could then signal her deportation to the Philippines.

And that would be very sad. Japan has become her home (she hasn’t been back to the Philippines since she went TNT), and she earns considerably well here. And just like any other overseas Pinoy, she supports her family in the Philippines. If she goes back to the Philippines, it will already be a strange place for her. For sure, she will just end up joining the long roster of Filipinos unable to find a job.

I wish her luck.
* not her real name.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nice Trike!

Saw this at Ginza, Tokyo’s posh and high-end shopping center. It’s a “sosyal” version of our lowly “padyak”, but this one’s both motorized and foot-pedaled. Super cool!

Makabili nga ng ganyan, maikahon, at mapadala sa Pinas. Just right for the gasoline crisis, eh? He he.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My "Engrish" Collection

Just for the heck of it, I have so far taken quite a number of pictures of signs, graffiti, ads, leaflets and other media which somehow showcase an amusing usage of the English language (now known as Engrish). Here are some of those that comprise my collection - these taken in Tokyo and Seoul:

I kinda symphatize with the dog, although I'm not sure if I get the entire message right.

Alma Moreno must be a partner here.

Does this mean "truth in advertising"?

This I don't get...

But this I do.

This again, I don't ....

If you're only half-human, they have no products for you...

Maybe the goods are "up" there?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunburn and A Bruised Ego

Yup. Those two, I’m nursing now.

First, the sunburn:

The Filipino community in Tokyo celebrated yesterday, both the Independence and Migrant Workers’ Days. I hosted the day-long program (with two alternating partners). It was held in an open field inside a park.

Luckily, the weather was fine (I was told it rained heavily last year, the show had to be cancelled). The sky was so clear this time, it allowed the sun to mightily throw all its destructive ultra-violets to us.

(Dennis Trillo thrilled the crowd)

As usual, I forgot to apply sun block (ever-ready boy scout I never was). By mid-noon, my face was already blood-red, and I knew I’ll be wearing a well-fried face for some time.

(Jed Madela wowed 'em with his vocals)

But , in hindsight, I really don’t care. What’s this minor inconvenience compared to the fulfillment of seeing our kababayans happy? Truth is, it would have been too self-indulging if I were to think of sun protection when everyone was also there in the middle of the park, enjoying the show. Even the guest artists from Manila basked in the sun.

(Allan K left the crowd in stitches)

Now, the bruised ego.

I only had a half-hour break by about 1 o’clock to change barongs and have lunch. The production assistants offered to get me food, but I decided to go out of the dressing area to check our office booth. As I passed by the VIP tent, the chairman of the activity saw me and offered me lunch.

I took a single barbecue stick and a morsel of pancit. As I was munching on my anorexic food alone, an overbearing underling working with a government agency approached me and told me to my face, “the food is only for embassy officials and the guests!”

WTF! I was stunned! I can’t believe someone could be so rude! What was she expecting me to do – return the food? My shock dumbfounded me. All I was able to do was inform a friend with the Embassy about it and left the unfinished lunch at the booth.

I felt so bad. Some officers came to me later to apologize (not the ill-mannered woman), but I really cannot find any good excuse for her uncalled-for act.

I tried rationalizing her outburst when people said: “she’s always been like that”, and “maybe she didn’t recognize you, being new here”, but I can’t.

If she has always been so uncouth, why is she still there working with and representing the government? And in an agency that trumpets our fabled hospitality at that? If she was mean to me, given her alleged reputation, then there must have been many victims before me. Her boorishness has no room in government service- not in the Philippines, not anywhere in our embassies abroad!

She did not recognize me? For pete's sakes, I was on stage all morning! Where was she all the time? Or better yet, did she really need to recognize me? I was in my dignified barong, for crying out loud! I surely could not be mistaken for some vagrant trying to score food! Or even presuming it was just anybody from the crowd. Does she have the right to do that? Definitely not.

Ahh... Yesterday could have been a perfect day (I still finished the hosting job despite the experience). But there really are people in this world who are out to ruin each and every good day. To hell with them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shirts I'd Never Dare Get Caught Wearing

That’s just me. Because the truth is the Japanese don’t care. They have never embraced English like we did. Truth is, with many unemployed English-speaking nationals (including Americans) now knocking on their doors for jobs, the Japanese instead insist that the strangers learn their tongue. And I see a lot of them taking great effort to do so. I am.

But for us, English has been a language we grew up in, even for my kindred souls who were raised in the boondocks. Some people take cover under the mantle of nationalism when they still cannot express themselves in cognizable English even after college, but I don’t buy that. It’s like living in an island and never learning to swim. Either you’re troubled or you are just plain cracked.

That’s why these shirts will not make good business in the Philippines. These are not the type which intentionally play with or mangle the language just to amuse, but were obviously written by copywriters who were so convinced that their grammar is perfect. You know, like some clueless but proud people we met back in school, whose sentences are but a mixture of unfathomable words. :-)

Check these out:

If you can't read the last one, it says:

Likes Suddenly
Interrupts the original melody
No longer has the very good physique to come the heavy rain
But may lie prone in the window
The window gently to breathe.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Remember ...

I'm not sure if age has caught up with me, but I can only remember “celebrating” our Independence Day during my youth. This was the time when the day was truly special and not just any other holiday.

These remain vivid in my thoughts:
My brothers and I will wake up early to prepare for the day’s festivities. And when we're all on our Sunday best, the first major task for the morning would be tying miniature flags to the window post. All houses in the community would display at least one.

Then off we would go, running to the town plaza where the sound system would already be blaring nationalistic songs. “Mabuhay, mabuhay, mabuhay ang Pilipino”, “Ako ay Pilipino, ang dugo’y maharlika”. All these we knew by heart through school.

It would seem that the entire town would gather for the parade. A parade where nothing much is featured but us, the citizens, young and old, waving flags.

After the parade would come the perfunctory program, where the town officials would show-off their oratory skills. That, with the large sign “Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan” emblazoned on the wall behind them. Afterwards, the adult participants will plant trees, while we, kids would now gawk at the various booths exhibiting or peddling local products.

Those were the days…

I can no longer recall any instance when I commemorated our Independence Day with so much fanfare, with deeper nationalism. Maybe because, at that time, I still had a very unadulterated view of what freedom means. That, compared to the cynicism that prevails in my mind now.

Ironically, those patriotic moments occurred in the period when history says we were most oppressed, with many liberties supposedly shackled. I don’t know, but after our so-called liberation through EDSA, I really can’t recall any celebration which was as meaningful as in the past. What I know, is that since then, the day became just a holiday, not anymore for what it symbolized, but for us to take respite from the daily grind.

I remember, today, June 12, is our Independence Day. And since this very day is reduced to just another working day, I can’t help but recall the days when I spent this day proudly waving the flag.

Note: I have a miniature flag proudly standing in my desk now.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Urban Oases

In a highly urbanized city like Tokyo, real estate is a prime commodity. Every little parcel of land has to be put to maximum use.

It’s a good thing though, that urban planners try the best they could to give the city folks some breathing space in an environment that has grown claustrophobic through the years. Developers now realize the need for trees and shrubbery, aesthetically placing them in what could have been just another concrete jungle.

In the Roppongi area, there are two recent additions to the skyscrapers milieu, and both “wasted” plenty of expensive space for parks and modern art.

Here’s the Tokyo Midtown Hotel.....

and the Roppongi Hills (office-cum-high end shopping center).
Both places now attract an endless stream of visitors, as they all try to take respite from the seemingly-unbearble harassment of everyday city life.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

"Bawal Magkasakit"

This warning, while true everywhere, is more compelling when one is alone abroad.

Aside from the absence of the care we normally receive from family and friends, medical attention here could also be outrageously expensive. And anything that challenges my savings is always a piss-off.

Why this rant now?

‘Coz, I am now spending my entire weekend at home, nursing an infected eye. I am now “boy kirat”, my right eye bulging and reddish for undetermined reasons.

We don’t have medical insurance here (the company only provides for us in the Philippines) so I’m a bit hesitant to consult a doctor. I’ve heard a visit could cost at least 25 Dollars, if uninsured. With the medications that would surely go with it, I’m staring at a possible 50-dollar loss which could result in a big drain on the savings.

So now I’m dilly-dallying, hoping that this pesky irritation will disappear after every sleep I make. I’m having one right after posting this.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Lonely Man's Supper

It’s supposed to be summer here already, but it’s still cold outside. Not my favorite weather, as I have always said.

But I’m hungry. My not-so-pampered stomach achingly pleaded for food. My mind tried to reconsider, and deliberated on just running to the curry house just a few blocks away. But my stubborn legs won’t cooperate.

Legs won. No choice, I’d have to find dinner in my place. But with no ref at home, there’s really nothing much I could munch on. There still is instant noodles hanging in the cupboard, but I’ve already had one this morning. Not healthy.

After much searching, I finally whooped up dinner. This...

.... oatmeal and Ligo Sardines.

Pretty usual food for me. But I don’t know why, as I ate, this quote from someone just popped in: “buti pa ang sardinas, kahit nasa lata, me kasama.”
And for some reason, I got a affected. Now let me take one deep breath and sigh ....