Monday, 30 August 2010

Job-Hunting Madness

“Sorry, we don’t accept part-timers anymore,” said the BPI manager.

It was the fourth time I got rejected by the Filipino banks situated in Earl’s Court and Victoria. I tried to check if they have part-time positions available, after what my friend suggested.

PNB, Allied Bank, Metrobank, and now BPI.

BPI was actually the rudest one. They just shoved me off as if I was just wasting their time. Other banks took my CV, checked it once, and then put it on the manager’s table.

It has been my fourth straight job hunting day. I thought it will be a sitch for me because I graduated from a very good school. Apparently, the real world doesn’t work that way.

I can never forget Joana’s remark a few weeks ago about an Eco graduate who became a security guard in the US, because Philippine diplomas were not recognized in the States. I shuddered.

I hate this. I am starting to doubt my capabilities at this point. After calling it a day, I just went to Victoria and took some pics of Buckingham Palace, just to use up all of my credits in my Oyster card.

Someone, help me.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Que Horror de las Islas Filipinas

Imagine the horror I was facing when the BBC reported about the gunman who wrecked havoc in the Quirino Grandstand by killing innocent tourists from Hong Kong.

My uncle and I were just speechless.

My Facebook page left no mercy as hundreds of feeds about the incident spread like wildfire.

I am fearing for the domino effect… when the whole world will know what Filipinos are capable of…

What will the British think of me as a Filipino? Would someone even bother to hire me, let alone interview me?

I will really find it unfair if they would box an educated lad like me into a wretched murderer.

Oh well, I am hoping for the best.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

320-Pound Room

“Here you go… 320 pounds for the deposit, and another 320 for the first month.”

My hands trembled as I was about to give half of my total money to a total stranger. Well, he’s not really a total stranger. He will be my landlord for the next few months.

Mike took the money from me. “Thanks! And welcome home then! Cheers to that!”

He prepared two glasses of wine for the both of us, as a way of welcoming me in his flat. We gave each other a toast.

His flat was really wicked I should say. I really like the minimalist feeling. 2 bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom, and a patio, right in the middle of Catford. Not to mention that he’s gay.

And yes, he has a boyfriend. Too bad… but since he’s already 30 (I think), I really didn’t mind. That is why the contract is temporary. His boyfriend will move in to his flat in a few months’ time.

It all began when saw his advert in Gumtree. This wasn’t my first choice actually. I actually chose a house in Lee, near Hither Green. To cut the long story short, the room to let in Lee was withdrawn because the old tenant had changed his mind and will not move anymore.

I had to look for a replacement ASAP, as my uncle’s employer will arrive in a couple of days. It wouldn’t be ideal for him to see me sleeping in his son’s room.

I wouldn’t want to leave Mike’s flat, but with 320 quid a month, I will be in for a bumpy ride indeed.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Meet and Greet

The week didn’t start off as planned when I was 10 minutes late for my first class in university.

No, I didn’t get lost. Actually, I allotted an hour just to familiarize myself with how commuters make their way to their respective destinations. The train I was riding on got delayed by more than 20 minutes. Damn it. Not so efficient now, innit?

It was embarrassing in any way. I was never late in any of my first day classes back home. This should be no exception.

Thankfully, it wasn’t just me who was late. A lot were running ahead of me in order not to aggravate the teacher.

I quickly found a seat between two Indians. They introduced themselves as Amir and Hassan.

Hmm… what familiar names.

The course, named Managerial Communication, was really just a revision for me because Communications was one of my major courses back in college. Amir kept on asking me a lot of questions about the sender and the receiver, and I can’t help but to help the poor guy. He’s a doctor back in India.

Anyway, I was talking to my seatmates during break time when I overheard two girls in front of me talking, but I am not sure if I am hearing it correctly. Are they speaking in Tagalog?

But before I can assess even further, the class started again.

I was in the registrar’s office to ask if I can change my mailing address.

Ano ba yan! Ang haba ng pila! (What the hell, the queue’s really long!)”

I tried not to look obvious, but I think I still was when I turned my head to the source as quickly as possible.

Then I saw those two girls again.

I knew it. They’re Filipino! They look mestiza to me. At last, I am not alone.

I have to devise a plan on how to approach them without looking too desperate.


I checked my phone. It’s Uncle Riz. Perfect.

I answered my phone, and tried to position myself as close to them as possible. And then I started to talk in Tagalog.

”Yeah, I’ll buy something at Lewisham first then I’ll go straight there,” I said in Filipino. I noticed that the two girls were already looking at me. Success.

“Ok see you then, Josh. Bye!”

“Bye!” I ended the call, just in the nick of time.

“Hello, kuya. Musta? Good thing there’s a Pinoy in this school!” As expected, one of the girls approached me. She was wearing very thick glasses. Studious much?

“Wow, you’re Filipino? You look Chinese!” said the other girl. She has this countryside accent, but I can’t pinpoint which province she's from exactly.

“I’m Josh. Yeah, I’m half Chinese. What are your names?”

“I’m Gene, and this is Tina,” said the girl with the glasses.

“How long have you been in the UK?” asked the girl named Tina.

“Oh just for two weeks.” Their eyes widened.

“Wow, bagong dating (new arrival)! We’re here for almost a year already,” said Gene.

We talked for a bit more, and exchanged contact details. I was about to leave when another Filipino came.

“Hey! Look Art, we have a Filipino classmate!” Gene exclaimed.

“Hey, I’m Art,” said the guy. Judging by his features, he’s a few years older than me. He has this probinsyano aura, but there’s something about his face that I fancy… I just can’t pinpoint it.

“Hi, I’m Josh.” We shook hands. His hands are a bit bigger and more slender than mine.

“I have to go now, my uncle’s waiting,” I said.

“Ok then… take care Josh! See ya next week!” said Gene.

As I walked to London Bridge Station looking for the earliest train to Blackheath, I can’t help but wonder… can they be the next Trix, or Stacey, or Sam?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sainsbury Blues

Tito, can’t you take me to Trafalgar Square?”

We were in Sainsbury’s for the fourth consecutive day. He has this weird inclination to shop for reduced food prices. Since food in London can be very expensive, people will scamper for them. Every 7PM, any item that will expire the day after are greatly reduced by as much as 70%. So a 5-pound whole chicken will just cost 1 quid after 7.

When my uncle first brought me to Sainsbury’s, I like a child being taken to the grocery for the first time. I was so keen on checking out all the commodities available in Britain. Mince pies…. Trifle cheesecakes… Lincolnshire sausages. I can sit at home all day and munch those delectable treats.

Since then, he just kept on bringing me back to the huge Sainsbury’s in Charlton. Don’t get me wrong. I just want to visit Big Ben. Hello, it has been a week since I arrived.

So far, I’ve just been in nearby towns like Lewisham and Blackheath. I haven’t been to central London yet, apart from my university. This is madness.

“Yeah, soon, after we’ve finished our groceries,” he replied.

Yeah right… It’s already 7:30PM, but since the sun sets at about 9 PM, it looks like it’s only 4 in the afternoon.

That’s it. Tomorrow, I will travel to central London by myself. 

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Fetch

“Take the Piccadilly Line, get off at Green Park Station, then take the Jubilee line, and finally get off at North Greenwich. I will meet you there.”

That’s what my uncle texted me. I quickly opened my cellphone to see if there are any new messages. I received a few from Mom and my friends. It’s annoying that Globe roaming is not working properly at the moment. Good thing Mom texted my uncle about my flight details.

No need to worry, I said to myself. Even if he just texted the name of the station he will be fetching me, I can traverse my way myself. I really love the subway system of other countries.

Doing a bit of research, I found out that buying an Oyster card will save a commuter a lot of money. It’s a card with an RFID chip that opens the ticket barriers. How efficient it is. Oh how I hope there is something like this back home.

“The next station is North Greenwich. Alight here for The O2.”

Finally, I am here. I had 2 big luggage, 2 backpacks, and 1 plastic bag. So just imagine the ordeal I went through when changing stations. London Underground is one of the oldest subway systems in the world, and even with very remarkable efficiency, not all stations have escalators, and not all platforms were wide enough to accommodate a lot of people.

It was amusing though to be with people from different nationalities. Being the most diverse city in the European Union, London has multiculturalism flowing in its streets.


I walked out of the Tube and headed to the elevator (or lift in British English). Good thing there’s a lift in North Greenwich station. I have to get back above ground as soon as possible. I haven’t texted my uncle about my whereabouts yet because there isn’t any available signal underground.

After grabbing seat on the bench, I glanced around. He will be here in 5 minutes, according to his reply.

I kept on stealing glances at this good-looking Caucasian guy a few benches away when I got startled by my uncle’s voice.

“Hoy Josh, musta na?’ it has been about 7 years. The still looks the same, albeit a bit fatter compared to the last time I saw him.

“I’m ok, how are you?”

“Good good. I thought I might never find you. I kept on walking around over there,” he said, pointing at the concourse at the rear end. “Let’s get going then! I am not allowed to park on the sidewalk!”

So, we hurriedly dragged my things to the trunk (or boot) of my uncle’s car. And off we zoomed.

I will get used to the driving on the right system someday, hopefully.

“It’s kinda cold,” I said while looking around the motorway.

“16 degrees is cold for you? Wait til it’s wintertime,” my uncle jeered.

Oh yeah, right. The lowest temperature I’ve experienced was -11. It was wintertime in Vienna back then, and we were touring around various towns in Austria, right in the middle of the cold snap.

“Well, here we are,” he said as he turned and entered the garage.

Wow. Number 10 Kidbrooke Park Road is such a big house. I entered the place. 3 floors plus a basement.

Before I can comment, my uncle suddenly said, “Well, it’s not mine. As you can see, my amo is a bit well-off.”

I forgot. He’s just working for his British employer as a housekeeper. But yeah, judging by the house, he must be having a great time serving him.

“Well, his family’s currently in Canada for a holiday, so you can have the boy’s room upstairs while we sort out your accommodation, okie?”

“I don’t know how to repay you, tito…

“Oh please, I have a huge gratitude to your dad, so this is my way of repaying that. So drop your stuff in the room. I’ve prepared brunch. You must be hungry from the long flight!”

Rrrrr. Oh great, my tummy just growled. It’s time to eat and take it all in.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Meet Me Halfway

London Heathrow… London Heathrow…. London Heathrow…

I can’t find it. My connecting flight isn’t on the screen yet.

I am in Bahrain International Airport and will be staying here for 7 more hours. I’ve done this before, waiting for more than 10 hours in Bangkok for a connecting flight to Frankfurt. This wouldn’t be a problem, right?


I had three jolly companions in Bangkok before. Now, I am all alone, halfway to my destination. Bangkok’s airport was massive… Bahrain’s is just the same size as NAIA 1.

And it didn’t help that I am in the middle of the Muslim world. I’ve heard stories about Arab men having the hots for clean shaven guys… *gulp*

And yes, I was among the few who weren’t wearing robes or anything. All the women were covered from head to toe in varying degrees, while some men were walking in their white robes, holding hands. Yes, it’s part of their culture for men to hold hands while walking.

I quickly spotted an internet kiosk, and I logged on to all of my social networking sites. Damn, the keyboard’s hard to press on (no pun intended)!

Well wishes in my FB wall, and lots of ‘em. I tried to answer all of them one by one, but my tummy just roared…. It needed food.

I found McDo at the end of the concourse. I decided to try out the McDo McArabian meal, which is the country’s specialty, I think.

Oh, it’s a chicken wrap. Interesting.

I grabbed a table by the front. A family of 5 then sat at the table on my right. I saw the passport the father was holding. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I got goosebumps. I tried to listen what they were talking about. Apparently, they don’t have the normal stereotypical southeastern British accent. They must be from the northern part, I suppose.

The table on my left was then occupied by a 20-ish something guy. He’s kind of cute. I checked the passport he was holding: Pilipnas Pasaporte.

Wow. He doesn’t look the typical OFW. I quickly took a glance on the plane ticket sandwiched in the passport…. KLM flight to Amsterdam.

I’m too tired to even care about him. It’s already like 3am Manila time.

After I finished my 2-dinar meal (I’m even too tired to convert), I strolled around the airport mall. I managed to bought a 5-dinar UK adapter from a Filipino saleslady. I then checked the duty free shop, but I quickly left when I felt like these Arab salesmen were eyeing me in a peculiar way.

With my eyes slowly giving up, I just sat down on a bench near Gate 7. 2 hours left before the boarding time.

I dozed off, thinking about the events that happened a while ago. After hugging my family at NAIA, it dawned on me. I will be all alone for a very very long time. The last minute texts and calls from my high school and college buds only made the matter more vivid.


“Gulf Air Flight 007 bound for London Heathrow is ready for boarding.”

I opened my eyes and gathered my luggage as I headed off the boarding gate.

It’s time to face London with an open mind and a fresh perspective.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Sweet Telephone Box


I was in Trix’s house again, this time celebrating my despedida with her and Gayle, another close wacky friend of mine.

There it was waiting at the kitchen…. A telephone box…. One of London’s iconic symbols!

“Just be careful Josh… the top one’s painted in acrylic paint, not in food coloring. We used it up already, and we didn’t have time to buy a new one again… Sorry!” Gayle apologized.

Yeah, Gayle’s the baker in our group… After graduation, she, together with her sis, set up a business that deals with all sorts of cakes. This one’s no exception.

“Other than the top one, it’s safe to eat everything else. C’mon take a picture of it, coz I am uber hungry!” Trix demanded.

“Awwww thanks guys! You shouldn’t have!” I said.

Hay. One week. Just one week before I leave my best friends behind. I’ll never forget the way they’re sending me off.

After taking some pics of the cake, we munched until our tummies couldn’t handle it anymore. The chiffon was made from pumpkin, and it was really scrummy.


“Here you go… Don’t read it until you’re on the plane ok?”

After that yummy dessert, we headed to a restaurant in Eastwood to have some lunch. How wonderful. Trix handed out a folded piece of bond paper. It was the 5th letter I received from my friends. Even with the advent of the technological age, it still pays to write all of your well wishes thru pen and paper.

“Here’s mine. But be careful… there are obscene doodles in there…. Don’t read it if an Arab is beside you okie?”

Gayle handed out her piece of paper. 6th letter. Oh dear. Knowing Gayle, she can be extremely wild and open when it comes to sexual innuendos, and this one will surely be no exception.

After lunch, they decided to watch Inception, but since I watched it already, I decided to bid them farewell.

“We’ll miss you Josh. Take care ok?” Trix said.

“Sure, I will.”

And with that note, I leave them with that wonderful cake in mind.