28 February 2011

Urgent appeal for Aylene Dela Cruz

This picture was taken at Botanical Garden a month after Aylene’s arrival in NZ.  Everything seemed to be perfect then.

Aylene came to New Zealand full of hope, full of plans, full of dreams.  She envisioned NZ to be the country which would give her family a better future.

Armed with 9 month Work to Resident (WTR) permit, and after spending around $20,000 nzd (borrowed from her aunt’s retirement pay), she left Philippines for NZ.  Being a single parent, she made a heart breaking decision to leave her 2 children to the care of her mother, confident that in just a few months they would be united again.

But she found that it was not that easy to find a job here.  With her pocket money slowly running out  and no job offer still,  she found generous friends who provided for her free accommodation.

When her 9 month WTR expired, she applied for and was granted a 3 month extension.  Within this period she got a job offer but the Immigration Department, citing job not being related to her skill, did not qualify her for Permanent Residency. An application for work permit was lodged but this too was denied.  Aylene and her employer appealed for consideration and since her WTR has expired, she was given a Visitor’s Permit to make her stay legal.  The appeal was lodged last Oct 2010 and up to now no decision has been made yet.

About 3 weeks ago, Aylene felt a lump in one of her breast which prompted her to see a GP.  An ultrasound confirmed mass on her right breast and was scheduled for immediate biopsy.  She got the biopsy result last 22 Feb 2010 - a malignant and an aggressive type of breast cancer.  She was booked for urgent surgery on 10 March 2011.

Further queries from the hospital revealed that she will not qualify for public health funding because of her status.

Aylene’s desire now is to go home, if possible before her birthday on 9 March 2010 and be with her family.  With no money at hand, she is faced with a big problem

This is where we are appealing for your help. There is an immediate need for the plane fare (around $1,200) and next would be the cost of the medical procedures (surgery, radiotheraphy and chemotheraphy)

There are 2 ways we can help Aylene:
  1. To commit a pledge of $10 a month (for one year) to cover her chemo sessions.  At least 50 pledges would mean Php 15,000 a month – more or less enough to cover the cost of the chemo, and
  2. To give a one off amount to cover her plane fare and immediate surgery.

Below is Aylene’s Bank Account details:
Ms. A R D Cruz, ANZ 01 0505 0428344 00

If you are making a pledge, may I suggest that we all do this through AP on the same date – on the 5th of each month?  This would ensure that Aylene would have the funds all at the same time (saves withdrawal charges from the Phils too)

Aylene would appreciate if you can email her at aylenedelacruz@yahoo.com.ph  Give her a chance to personally thank you.

Aylene may be going home with unfulfilled NZ dream  – but I know that God compensated it by giving her friends like you – no PR visa can ever replaced that!!

God bless you all.

Aylene’s basic info found on her Facebook account

Never regret a day in your life.
Good days give you happiness.
Bad days give you experiences, both are essential to life.
God will not give up on me.
And He will not give up on you.

I miss my two beautiful babies, Ryle Matthew and Rayne Zoe. Dear Father God, may we all be together soon. 

(source: wlgnzpinoys mailing list)

25 February 2011

Fact Sheet to help newcomers in Christchurch affected by the Earthquake

(Source: Settlement Support and Immigration New Zealand)

In stressful situations new migrants and other newcomers can find it really hard - they may not have the friends or family support that most of us automatically turn to.

This fact sheet tells you about services and support available in Christchurch to recover from the Canterbury earthquake. Please call the following number if you need urgent support.

The central Government Earthquake Help Line number is 0800 779 997

Settlement Support New Zealand can provide additional support for people who have recently moved to Christchurch and who are unsure where to go or who to speak with.

0800 776948 (0800 SSNZ4U) BETWEEN 7.00am -10.00pm
OR EMAIL settlementinformation@dol.govt.nz



Public telephones across the city are free for local, national, and mobile telephone calls.
Call 111 in the case of an emergency.

Call Earthquake Government Help Line - 0800 779 997 for information about all government services and support.

Missing persons: Please call 0800 733 276 (0800 RED CROSS) if you are concerned about the wellbeing of friends and relatives in Christchurch.

There is also a website to register missing or found people: http://christchurch-2011.person-finder.appspot.com

People outside of New Zealand can call +64 7 8502199

Call the Earthquake Commission (EQC) - 0800 326 243 (0800 DAMAGE) for information on EQC’s insurance cover, cleaning up and making a claim.

Call Christchurch City Council customer services - 03 941 8999 for assessment of major structural damage to your home or business premises or for help with essential council services such as water supply or sewage disposal.

For regular updates contact: www.canterburyearthquake.org.nz

  • Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one, drop, cover, and hold on.>
  • Help those around you if you can and look after neighbours friends and family.
  • Only go to the hospital if absolutely essential. For other injuries, contact your nearest after hours medical centre.
People are asked to avoid all non-essential travel. We recommend that people stay home, no work or school for 3 days following the earthquake and please keep travel to absolute minimum.

Damage to the water supply system means there will not be enough water to meet demand in the coming days.

  • If it rains, residents are asked to collect water in buckets if possible. 2
  • Residents are advised to conserve water. Do not shower, take baths, or flush your toilet.
  • Boil drinking water for three minutes.
  • Portable toilets will be available – however this may take some time.
Drinking water is available from these primary schools by 11am:

  • Redcliffs
  • Phillipstown
  • South New Brighton
  • Shirley
  • Wainoni
  • Lyttelton Main
Please bring your own containers to fill up.


The following centres are for those that need urgent emergency assistance following the Canterbury earthquake. They can supply you with blankets, food, and sanitation.

Pioneer Stadium. 75 Lyttelton Street, Spreydon
A map is available from here: View Map

Cowles Stadium. 210 -220 Pages Road, Wainoni
A map is available from here: View Map

Burnside High School, 151 Greers Road, Burnside
A map is available from here: View Map

Civil Defence will attempt to open more centres throughout the day.

  • Burnside School,
  • Papanui High School,
  • Lyttelton Recreation Centre,
  • Brooklands Community Centre,
  • Akaroa Senior School is open.

HEALTHLINE (24 HOURS): 0800 611 116 3

The service is staffed by registered nurses who will assess your health needs, and give information and advice to help you decide on the best level of care.

Medical resources are being deployed and activated to manage the number of injured. Christchurch hospital is operational. DO NOT GO to A & E (accident and emergency) at the hospital unless absolutely essential.

For other injuries, contact your nearest after hours medical centre. The 24 hour surgery on Bealey Avenue is open.

Emergency triage centres for the injured are operating at Latimer Square, Canterbury University and the Sanitarium Building in Papanui.

Hospitals in other areas are prepared to receive patients if required.

Department of Labour – If you have questions about your employment and how it’s been impacted by earthquake events you can get information at www.dol.govt.nz. If you have specific questions about expectations of you, your employer, or an employment issue you can call 0800 209 020.

Immigration NZ - Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ’s) visa processing centre in Crystal Plaza in Cathedral Square is closed until further notice following Tuesday’s earthquake. People whose visas are about to expire should call the INZ contact centre (0508 55 88 55) for advice as to where to send their applications. People whose passports are being held by INZ in Christchurch pending extension of a visitor visa or other visa and who now wish to leave New Zealand should call the contact centre.

SSNZ (Settlement Support New Zealand) - If you are a recent migrant or newly arrived in Christchurch and need support after the Earthquake you can call Settlement Support New Zealand FREE on: 0800 776948 (0800 SSNZ4U) between 7.00am-10.00pm or email settlementinformation@dol.govt.nz. We will provide you with support, advice, and link you to services that you need. We can also get help in your language if you want it.

Working for Families - If your income has dropped and you have children, you may want to check if you qualify for Working for Families payments. Working for Families includes tax credits, an accommodation supplement and childcare assistance.

To find out more, go to www.workingforfamilies.govt.nz, or call 0800 227 773 for more about tax credits, or 0800 774 004 for more on the accommodation supplement and childcare assistance.
Inland Revenue - If you have trouble making child support payments please call Inland Revenue on 0800 221 221. If your income has changed because of the earthquake you may need to re-estimate your income to adjust the amount of child support you pay.

Housing New Zealand – If you are a Housing New Zealand tenant and you have any concerns at all, you can call Housing New Zealand anytime on 0800 801 601 or you can call into either the Linwood or Papanui Neighbourhood Units.

If you are not a Housing New Zealand tenant and need assistance with temporary housing, phone the Government helpline on 0800 779 997.

ACC - If you have any questions regarding current injury claims you may have with ACC, please contact us on 0800 101 996.

Education – The Ministry of Education has a helpline that will be available until 8:00pm - Phone 0800 225 580. Updates are also available from their website: http://www.minedu.govt.nz/.

Counselling and Support – If you need support or counselling services, you can call Right Service Right Time on 0800 777 846.

Refugee Services Aotearoa – If you need to contact Refugee Services you can call the Christchurch Office, which is operational, on 03 3390483. If no one answers, you can leave a message and someone will respond to your call as soon as possible.

Postal services - Mail and courier deliveries are suspended for at least two days for the Christchurch metropolitan area but other areas serviced by the Christchurch mail centre will also be affected. The mail centre's closure will affect mail deliveries to other parts of the South Island while alternative sorting arrangements are made. PostShops are closed for staff to attend to their families and for buildings to be checked for damage. Damage has been reported in several PostShops. Check for updates www.nzpost.co.nz.

Phone services - Power has been cut to cell sites so many mobile phone users are without coverage. Do not overload phone lines with non-essential calls. Civil Defence is asking for the public to keep cellphone use to a minimum, especially voice and data. If you must use your cellphone, text. Christchurch's 111 service has been diverted to Wellington, but network damage, overloading and power blackouts could affect connections. Telecom says payphones in the Christchurch area will be free to use.

Roading - The NZ Transport Agency has closed Lyttelton Tunnel. Damage and rubble have closed many roads in the city. NZTA asks motorists to make essential trips only. State highways are open but the Chaneys on-ramp to State Highway 1 north of Christchurch is closed.

Plunket - Plunket New Zealand says Christchurch families concerned about their child's health or wellbeing should call 0800 933 922.

Business helpline - Information for business owners call 0800 42 49 46

Any visitors to Christchurch who want to leave the city should make their way to collection points at the Burnside High School welfare centre, corner of Memorial Avenue and Greers Road or the welfare centre at North Hagley Park.

You can also call Christchurch International Airport - 0800 568 369 for information about travel, tourism and accommodation.

22 February 2011

Christchurch earthquake help information

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake has occurred 10km south-east of Christchurch at 12:51, February 22, 2011. Depth (focal depth): 5km.

Here are some resources to help keep in touch, ask for assistance, or provide information.

Canterbury Earthquake website - for the latest news and updates

Person Finder - to connect people who are reported missing

Twitter users: use the #eqnzcontact hashtag to locate friends and family. @safeinchch is for news on people who are safe.

Use the Government helpline 0800 779997 for earthquake assistance as 111 is currently overloaded.

View the Christchurch Quake Map for earthquake and aftershock occurence.

19 February 2011

The longest Christmas party in the making

(This post is a bit delayed I know; I still have vacation hangover I guess)

I'm not sure if my friends still remember this, but back in high school we have been planning to have a Christmas get-together at Leo's place. But come Christmas time, we'd all go our own merry ways and meet the following year when school is back.

So I guess I can say this has been a long time coming. When Leo invited us over to their house for a (post) Christmas party, it was definitely a go.

We had loads of fun. I saw Leo's mom, who I have not seen ever since I finished college. Their house has changed for the better, but the familiar areas are still there (I spent a week in their place during high school). They're the kind of friends who you do not see for so many years and when you get together, it's like you only met yesterday and you pick up where you left off. Leo's sister said we were like high school kids all over again. We were up til past midnight. To add to the ambience, we even had the Gunter Kallmann choir provide the background music to add the to already festive atmosphere.

We also had a bit of a photoshoot which was a lot of fun! Thanks Leo!

We spent the better part of the night jumping around I think!

Hopefully the next Christmas get-together won't take as long!

14 February 2011


It was among the first things we noticed when we entered my sister's room: the sound of a chick chirping loudly. A quick inquiry revealed a small bag the size of a wallet and inside a chick nestled comfortably. My nieces named him/her (we don't know yet, let's stick to him for now) Odox. Where they got the name, I don't know. But it was obvious that Odox is a well-loved chick.

Odox would call out loudly when no one else is in the room, that's how comforting he finds the company of people. He wouldn't eat plain rice, and he loves snuggling. He was such a character; we'd always look for him whenever we visited our sister.

I guess taking care of pets run in the family!

When I voiced out loud what will happen when Odox gets bigger, my sister quipped, "We'll get a bigger bag!"

I hope to see Odox again when we come back to the Philippines for another vacation.

10 February 2011

Victory Liner's Deluxe trips

Part of my Philippine holiday itinerary was to visit friends in Manila. But unexpected things happened and what was supposed to be a trip between Christmas and New Year for about 4 days, became a weekend in the third week of January. Pressed for time, I wanted to have as much rest as I can during the trip to and from Baguio and so I decided to give Victory Liner's Deluxe trips a try.

For the trip down to Manila, I took the 11PM trip on the bus with built-in toilet. It's a non-stop trip, so I figured it will save me some travel time. The fare was P715.00.

But when the bus arrived, it was the bus without the toilet, which was a hundred pesos cheaper. We were reimbursed the difference before the trip started.
The seats are more comfortable and there is more leg room than the regular aircon bus; there are two seats at the left and only one at the right.  There's also feet and leg support to make snoozing more comfortable.  Each passenger was given a small, cold bottle of mineral water prior to the journey; I wouldn't have bought one had I known this was part of the package.  We had one stopover and since it was a night trip, the bus was able to make it to Manila in 4 hours 45 minutes.  That's over an hour shaved off from the regular travel time!

On the way back to Baguio, I took a mid-afternoon schedule, also on a Deluxe bus.
If my memory serves me right, the bus was supposed to leave at 2:30PM.  But it left half an hour late and I think I know why: there weren't a lot of us in it.  In fact, I boarded the bus at 2:35 but I was able to get a front seat, the lone chair at the right side.  Which, come to think of it, was not a good idea because the cooler where the bottled water is kept is right in front of me and so leg room is smaller than in the other seats.  After the customary distribution of the bottled water, we started our journey at 3.

I enjoyed the view, which I have not seen for a couple of years, as well as the two movies that were shown during the trip.  The day trip had to confront regular traffic, however, and so we reached Baguio in the regular travel time of 6 hours (and 15 minutes) inspite of the fact that there was only one stopover (versus two for the regular trips).
Overall, the deluxe trip is quite a nice way to travel.  But at such a price, I would reserve it only for emergencies, or when I feel that it will do me a world of good to ride the Deluxe trip.  Otherwise I would go for the regular aircon bus which costs under P500.00 and spend the extra money on loads of other Baguio goodies.

07 February 2011

There and back again

It’s been 5 days since we arrived here in New Zealand from our holiday in the Philippines. We spent a month and a half in my hometown of Baguio. Which is just as well because we did not have a difficult time adjusting to the weather. But in the two years that we were gone, I saw a lot of changes both in Baguio and Manila. I guess that being in the midst of it all, you would not notice the change happening around you. But when you leave for an extended time, you will definitely see the difference.

I spent more than my fair share, for example, of regular trips to Glorietta for the cinemas, midnight madness, or just plain malling when I was working in Makati. But last December I unbelievably found myself lost! I was surprised to see Glorietta split into two. I wanted to go to Park Square 1 and found myself going around in circles for 45 minutes. The Landmark was also very different, with its striped flooring and improved layout. And Pasay Road! It’s one construction after another.

Here’s another change I noticed. Many say that the impression of people coming from overseas have pockets bulging with money! I think reality has finality hit home. We were happy for the dinners and the distribution of pasalubong, but we did not have to splurge on anything. It was an eye-opener for me personally. Must be the world becoming smaller due to social networks.

Some things don’t change though. Like the continual rise of violence. It seemed that every other week I saw news of a community or a building burning. My prayers go out to those who perished in the dorm where would-be nurses were lodging. And then there was the carnapping with murder. In January, toll fees rose more than 100%, gas price rose twice in a month, bakery products and cooking oil followed suit. Taxi fare also increased.

In the face of all these challenges, I saw the everyday Filipino endeavour to make the best of what they have, and strive for their family. The smiles and the courtesy I received from the sales clerks, the jeepney driver, the tindera, from my friends and family. Priceless.

As I look back to our short holiday in the Philippines, I have mixed feelings about what I had experienced. I know our government – both local and national – can still do so much more for the people. And the people themselves… I know that there is still a chance for change, if only we can unite and make the effort to turn things around.

(This article also appears in the Definitely Filipino blog)

03 February 2011

Beach photos

I would like to share a few more photos from our memorable beach trip, courtesy of my friend and photographer extraordinaire Leo Tiukeng.

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