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Edwin dela Peña: Drilling in the Land of the Kiwis

Quick! Where in the world does winter start in June just when everyone else is thinking of heading off to the beach in skimpy bikinis? If your answer is the southern hemisphere, then you can gently pat yourself on the back and consider yourself smarter than a fifth grader. And to the southern hemisphere is where Edwin dela Peña of the high school class of 1987 has brought his family in search of better opportunities not only for himself but, more importantly, his children.

We are not talking about Australia, which as everyone probably knows is not the only country down undah. Instead, Edwin has brought his family to another country downer undah, if you get my drift.

Where else but the land of snow-capped mountains and grassy hills; where there are more sheep than citizens; and where rugby is the game and everything else is for sissies. Where else but the land of the Kiwis, New Zealand!

“Generally, people here are very professional; services are on time and fast; and the standard of living is higher by a factor of 3-5 compared to the Philippines,” Edwin says of his newly adopted country. “I am residing in a commercial district in Auckland; and compared to Filipinos, the people here are more laid back.”

Although Edwin has only been in Auckland since June of this year, he has already been impressed by what he has seen of New Zealand so far. “The beaches and parks in cities where I’ve been are clean and beautiful,” he says. “The breezes smell pure and natural. Almost everything here is unspoiled beauty not affected by development.”

And there will be a lot to see. New Zealand is the country, after all, where the breathtaking mountain scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were filmed.
Not that the timing was something that Edwin had control of, but things could have been better. “It was winter when I arrived,” he explains. “Not much of an adjustment for me; but for my family it was a big deal. The wet winter has been difficult for them.”

Of course summer will come – oh yes, just when everyone else is dreaming of a white Christmas! “I hope to go on adventure trips to scenic spots outside of the city,” Edwin looks forward to the turning of the seasons. And there will be a lot to see. New Zealand is the country, after all, where the breathtaking mountain scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were filmed.

So how did Edwin end up in the land of Frodo Baggins?

“I submitted a CV through a friend working in Sinclair Knight Merz,” he explains. “SKM scheduled me for an interview; and after I signed, the company arranged the relocation process from the Philippines to Auckland.”

SKM is a completely employee-owned company formed in Sydney in 1964. It describes itself as “a leading projects firm with global capability in strategic consulting, engineering and project delivery.”

The company has operations across the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It deploys around 7,000 people in more than forty offices around the globe.

Edwin explains his role with SKM, “I interface with other SKM specialists or work as a member of a team supporting clients in New Zealand and many different parts of the world. I am involved with and taking lead roles in a diverse range of engineering tasks associated with the design and construction of wells of many different types from shallow depths to depths exceeding 4,000 metres.”

So how did Edwin, a licensed Chemical Engineer, end up in the well-drilling business? To be able to answer this, we need to go as far back as 1987, the year when Edwin graduated from high school. The choice of Chemical Engineering was made, he says, because of the influence of a neighbour who worked in an oil refinery in Kuwait and also because of his high school Science teachers.

Edwin then enrolled at DLSU-Manila, where his education was funded by the Dr. H. E. Roensch Scholarship Fund. Maintaining the required grades to stay in the scholarship program for all four years of college is something that he considers among his greatest personal achievements.

In 1992, Edwin graduated from DLSU-Manila with his engineering diploma under his arm. A year later, he passed the board examinations and obtained his license to practice his profession. He had a brief stint at Nippon Paint but soon decided it was not the company – nor the job – that he wanted to build his career with.

“My colour blindness (‘green-red’) made me realize it would be difficult for me to advance my career in industries relying on colours,” he explains.

The following year, Edwin found a job with the Energy Development Corporation, the geothermal arm of the Philippine National Oil Company. The company’s business was conducting geothermal exploration, generation and transmission.

As Senior Drilling Engineer, Edwin was in charge of managing the design process and drilling program execution in development project sites located in Sorsogon, Negros, Davao and Leyte. There were also exploratory sites in Camarines Norte.

In 2001, Edwin moved to Therma Prime Well Services, Inc. “Therma Prime is the drilling arm of EDC,” he says, “so basically the same company.”

“It was either office work or field work,” Edwin recalls life at either company. “The field assignments involved fourteen days of duty and seven days off. They had housing villages for mess and accommodations and portable camps at the field sites with a good communicating system. At the field sites, we were exposed to the elements but were provided with the appropriate clothing and personal protective equipment.”

It must be said, though, that Edwin’s current company in New Zealand is not merely into drilling. “It caters to a wide range of operations such as defence, energy, power, social/transport water and the environment,” he says. In his current capacity as Senior Geothermal Drilling Engineer, however, he benefits from the accumulated knowledge and experience while working for both EDC and Therma Prime.

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