The end of the road? NOT!

A year ago, I embarked on a journey that only a few people dare trod – postgraduate life.

At first, I just wanted to get a skills certificate to increase my employability here in New Zealand. But the world has something else in store for me. Aside from Wellington Institute of Technology and Whitireia Polytechnic, I also applied for postgraduate studies at Victoria University of Wellington. Lo and behold, Vic was the first one to respond to my application – and it is a positive response! It’s as if the world was telling me that I’m now ready to take my knowledge a step further and actually start understanding the reality of the world I was living in.

Now that one year has passed, and that entire year flew by so fast. I felt that I was just getting into the thick of things when all of a sudden, boom! I’m graduating with a postgraduate diploma degree in development studies. It isn’t yet the Masters degree I was hoping for but it’s still a step forward from the bachelor’s degree I obtained back home.

But more than the degree, it was the stuff outside the degree that actually opened up my horizons. I met friends from all over the world, went to several meetings, seminars, and similar get-togethers, and currently looking forward to a possible life-changing internship/cultural exchange to Europe. It all happened at Victoria.

I might be saying goodbye now, but that goodbye is not permanent. I am making a promise I’m sure to keep – I will be back!

Is it the end of the road already? I reckon NOT.


Why wage war?

I can’t believe that there are some people in social media suggesting that the government should wage a war against the BIFF after the Mamasapano ambush. I’m throwing these questions to them:

1. Do you guys think that the Philippines is in an economically viable position to wage war against a smaller, non-state actor?

2. What about civilians that will be entrapped? Do we already have evacuation and emergency plans in place?

3. Do we have conflict resolution and rehabilitation mechanisms in place?

4. The clincher: Isn’t the Philippines a charter member of the United Nations, whose charter renounces war as a first option for conflict resolution?

While the conflict in Mindanao is a complex web of social issues, war is a simplistic but destructive solution to an otherwise complicated issue.

Connecting to the Rest of the World in New Zealand

When I was a kid, probably around five years old, our grandparents gave us a Childcraft encyclopaedia set. It has 17 volumes plus a child’s dictionary and a child’s atlas. Being the biggest book on the set, I took on the atlas straight away. I was amazed to find coloured maps of all the countries in the world, together with the national capitals, the national flags, and especially coloured pictures to give the kiddie reader a feel of what can be seen in that country. The atlas gave me an appreciation and fascination for different cultures at a young age, and ever since I always wished to meet people from around the world.

Indeed, we are now living in a highly globalised world. Television channels show a wide diversity of programmes from all over the world. Radio stations play songs from different countries. And social media has allowed everyone to connect with each other. Each person in the world has an opportunity to not only learn about different cultures but also find a way to bring cultures together under one common goal.

But what is it like to be united in a truly diverse, globalised society? I have accidentally acquired the answer to this question when I enrolled in Victoria University for my postgraduate studies. I have hoped (but not expected that much) that I would meet at least one person from a different country other than the Philippines or New Zealand during my stay in Vic, even though I have already made contacts (mostly business) with some people from other countries even before I moved to New Zealand.

But surprise, surprise. When we were asked to talk to our seatmate during the postgraduate orientation programme, I shared experiences with a psychology student from Colombia. Then more get-to-know-each-other activities came and I was able to meet with other students from parts of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. When I arrived at my first class, I’ve met more international students that are taking the same programme, mostly scholars from South East Asia.

As the first semester went on, I’ve met a group of international students in a jazz bar in Te Aro. I was introduced to the group by my classmate and good friend Vincent, an exchange student from the Netherlands. Ever since that night I’ve been invited to their music jams, parties, and other get-togethers. Despite coming from different countries, different cultures, we really clicked together, united by friendship, fun, academic life, and, to an extent, the FIFA World Cup.

And with the bond I formed with these international students, I saw that there is so much power in connection and unity that should go beyond obvious diversity. Having a friend from different countries opened new horizons for me. Knowing their cultures and traditions even opened a plethora of wonderful opportunities. And with these horizons and opportunities, I realised that the key to a united world is one that is made of respect and open-mindedness.

Some of my international friends may not know it, but they definitely changed my life forever. And because of these wonderful experiences I will never see that atlas book again the same way I did when I was a kid. I shall see it not with amazement anymore, but with reminiscing and probably a Grinch-like smile on my face, and say, “Oh that’s where my friend lives!”

Indeed, Louis Armstrong was right. What a wonderful world!

When the risks you’ve taken are starting to payoff

Whew! Almost the end of a really busy October. Yep, I’ve been busy that’s why I wasn’t able to tend to my blog for the past month. But despite the hectic schedule, a lot of things have been going great.

Last September I was walking along campus looking for lunch. My first plan was to buy some sushi from Makimono, but the queue was so long and I was already very hungry I decided to ditch sushi. I walked further to Iliot Cafe and bought a burger meal. After purchasing my meal, outside the cafe was a booth for AIESEC-Victoria. I’ve heard about AIESEC before and what it does, but not in real detail. Curious, I approached the booth and asked the guys about their projects, programmes, and other what-have-you. So the guys at the booth talked to me about Global Talent and Global Citizen, the organisation’s exchange programmes, the former being a paid internship teaching English and/or marketing and the latter, volunteer work. Then the guys at the booth invited me to their information evening so I could learn more about the organisation and their programmes.

So I went to the information evening and learned more about AIESEC. So I thought, why not give the exchange a shot. After all, if AIESEC accepts exchange participants below 30 years of age, I still have three more years to give. So I signed up for a potential interview and waited. Finally, they scheduled an interview on the 4th of October, and I was kinda surprised that I breezed through it. Sam, one of the members of the interview panel, did comment that I was a ‘perfect candidate’.

So yeah, I took chances in joining the programmes of AIESEC. And because of that, my lifelong dream of going to Europe will be coming true soon.

Life is fun when you take chances.

An appeal to the incoming National-led government

This is a speech I delivered earlier at the March for Education forum at the Tim Beaglehole Courtyard, Victoria University Wellington. Thanks to Sherbonn Ciceron for additional valuable inputs to this speech.

To my fellow students, a liberating afternoon to all of you.

As most of you may know or might have deduced, I’m a migrant student here at Victoria University. Just like most migrants from developing countries, I moved to New Zealand in 2013 with hopes of a better future. A better future that can be acquired through education.

Back in the Philippines, I could say that I was doing okay. I graduated with a degree from the country’s national [or premier state] university, which eventually landed me a good job. So yeah, you can say that I came to New Zealand quite well-off.

But most migrants do not enjoy the same position that I had. Most migrants, especially migrant families, come to New Zealand or any other host country laden with huge debts, debts that are so huge it would make you cry. But they hold on to their dreams of a better future. And in order to reach that dream, many of us migrants’ children must to work in while coming to school, especially tertiary education. There is the notion that the diploma that one will hold at the end of three or four years of tertiary education will not just put them in a better position to get a high-paying job. We believe that the diploma that will be holding dearly will be our ticket out of our miserable situation.

Yet, these migrants’ kids’ dreams of a better future through tertiary education is usually being killed by the double-headed monster we call rising university fees and student loans. Their families already laden with debt, these migrants have no choice but to take out massive student loans just to get through.

We migrants care for their education because we believe this is our ticket to a better future. But how can a future be a bright one if we are being dragged-back by a debt-laden past? Yes, we are grateful to New Zealand for giving us these opportunities, but we have to remember that education, including tertiary education, is a basic right to be enjoyed by every person in the world – migrant or not. And it is be the State’s responsibility to provide the means to enjoy this basic right – and it’s not happening right now. We demand to the next government to not abandon its responsibility of providing its people – migrant or not – accessible quality education, education that is nationalistic, scientific, and mass-oriented. Education that is centred on the needs of humanity and not on the needs of big businesses. Education that feeds it citizens both physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Education that will make this nation greater that what it is now. Education that is a right (raise your right fist), has always been a right (stamp it), and always be a RIGHT (raise it higher) and MUST NEVER BE and WILL NEVER BE A PRIVILEGE.

And to my fellow migrants: do not be afraid to speak up. We must unite and consolidate our forces together with the rest of the students of New Zealand in demanding for quality education – a right that we should all enjoy as human beings. As I quote my friend Sherbonn Ciceron of the Philippines “If the Jesus of the Christians, Yeshua of the Jews and Isa of the Muslims, out of love for his Abba Father God, ‘…overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts’ (Mark 11:15-16) and never said sorry because he knows that he was fighting for what is right, WE, OUT OF LOVE FOR EDUCATION WE, OUT OF LOVE FOR OUR FAMILIES, WE TOO, WILL OVERTURN THE TABLES. WE TOO,WILL FIGHT FOR WHAT IS RIGHT. WE TOO, WILL FIGHT FOR WHAT IS RIGHT! AND WE WILL NOT BE SORRY!

Thank you very much.

My bud’s bi and has a partner. SO WHAT?

Lately I have been under fire from ultra-conservative people for sending out my love and congratulations to my best bud Gian who announced his relationship with his Dutch classmate, Angelo.

Yeah, the spelling of the name is right. Angelo, not Angela. Yeah, my best buddy’s gay, well actually bisexual. So whaaaattt?

I’ve been friends with him since 2004 and never had I felt awkward being with him. At the very start of our friendship he already laid it down for me. He’s bisexual. I said I’m cool with that, as long as he remains true to himself and to our friendship, he’ll always be a friend.

And remain a friend he did. He was there during my ups and my downs. We laughed together. We cried together. We went crazy together. We shared secrets, food, even illnesses (madalas kaming magkahawaan).

So now he’s facing a new chapter in his life – settling down with someone who he loves and loves him very much. And even though he’s already got a partner, and he’s miles away from me, he will remain my best bud, my bruh.

So to all those who’s putting him down just because he’s bi, you’ll have to answer to me first.

I love you bruh. 


The burden of criticizing PNoy

As usual, Teddy is brilliant!

Teddy Casiño

I follow Vice Ganda on Twitter and have to admit that most of the time, I don’t know what the hell he’s tweeting about. Imagine my surprise, then, at his post last Monday (July 28) alleging that participants to the big anti-PNoy SONA rally were bribed with rice money to attend the protest.

Knowing for a fact that this was untrue, I replied that on the contrary, it was the politicians inside Congress that were bribed with billions of the President’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds, to which Vice Ganda retorted that those who didn’t get their share of the pork were “tumatalak.”

Of course Vice Ganda is entitled to his wrong opinion. Wrong because in truth, the most vociferous critics of the DAP in Congress – my colleagues in the Makabayan bloc – were recipients of DAP-funded projects too. Their “pagtatalak” was not because they didn’t get any but…

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