A beautiful drawing by my cousin, Stacy Eduarte.
Since I graduated from college in 1999, I’ve been employed in eleven different companies already — and that’s only in the span of 12 years.
I’ve been to a bank, to a publishing company, to an information technology company, to a restaurant business, to an academic institution, to a BPO, again in a publishing company, to a retail company, to a financial institution, to a cement company, to an electrical company. I know the feeling of being a contractual, of losing a job due to an end in probationary contract, and of resigning from a job. I’ve worked for bosses in different shapes and forms, from heaven-sent bosses to bosses from hell.
If you’re wondering where I stayed the longest and for how long, that would be in the academic institution where I lasted for four years, followed by almost three years in a financial institution, then two years in… okay, to cut the long story short, my shortest stay in a company was six days.
There is this common misconception that job hoppers have serious psychological problems. The common accusations: emotionally unstable, difficulty adjusting to new circumstances, immaturity, inability to fit in a group, too idealistic, weak, and so on and so forth. If you are a Human Resource practitioner and this is immediately your way of thinking because this is what was taught to you in your masteral class, or what was written in your psychology book, then I would have to say that you are quite ignorant about a lot of things.
Though it is true that some have difficulty coping with the pressures and stress in the office which is why people leave their jobs, it is also true that bad companies, bad management exist causing people to leave their jobs. And what makes you think that those who’ve been working in a company, let’s say, for more than ten years, twenty years are perfectly happy and contented where they are, or, well-adjusted people. I interviewed some longtime employees and I’ve asked them what made them stay that long in the company. Most of them said it’s because they already have families to support. If they leave and be a new employee again in a company that offers a higher pay, there is no guarantee that they will be regularized after six months. So they stay where they are, where they feel they are more secured. For those who aren’t married, though they’ve entertained thoughts about applying in another company they would back out the last minute because they dread adjusting to a new environment, to new colleagues. Because again, they dread that uncertainty, that tension of doubt like what if they wouldn’t be regularized? What if the next company could be worse? A long number of years in a company is not a sure sign that that person is an emotionally-stable, secure person. They could be resistant to change.
My point is, people stay in their jobs for a host of other reasons and people leave for a host of other reasons.
So for those who might be having difficulty adjusting to their jobs as new employees, I dedicate this article for you. Because like you, I am again a new employee. I worked for the private sector for (almost) 12 years and right now, just this year, I’ve made a big jump to government service so it’s another big adjustment for me. But whether you’re in a private office or in a government office, people you will work with are all the same. Nag-iiba lang ang mukha, haha!
Being new in a company is the most awkward, uncomfortable stage to be in. People will look at you differently and treat you differently. The workplace is called a jungle — an unfriendly jungle at that — for a reason. So here are my tips in surviving the workplace:
- Be the first to reach out. Be nice. If they aren’t nice to you, then take comfort with the fact that you’ve done your best to reach out to them then just let them be. They must be coping with a problem or an issue or an insecurity or something.
- Seek out allies. Yes, as a new employee, it is essential to find a few friends in the office that you can trust. People who would be willing to help you as you adjust in your new environment.
- Focus on your job. You are there in the office to work. Not to be involved in gossips and useless chattering. Sometimes you will be tempted to participate in such talks for it is human nature but then again, at the end of the day, amid all the conflicts and trials, you must remember that you are there to work. There are annoyances that you do not need to take personally.
- Listen more. There is this common advice that as a new employee you have to be more pakitang-gilas than everybody else around. I don’t buy this. Displaying my knowledge ascendancy over old employees can be tricky and dangerous. In your first six months as a new employee, be humble. It is tempting to show to everyone that you are smart, that you want to prove something to your boss but for now, as a new employee, it is much better to be more of a student, listening more, observing more, sticking to instructions given to you, and asking questions, no matter how stupid, to get to know more about your job. Take advantage of your first six months because it is the period of learning. You still have a lot to learn in your new job even if you’ve had previous work experiences.
- If you’re a subject of gossip and ridicule, ignore them. I’m like a guy, when someone provokes me, I quickly retaliate. I fight back. So learn from my mistake. When you get angry or get emotional, you are letting the other person putting you down win the game. Just ignore them. Pretend they don’t exist. Just focus on your job. Do well with your job. Believe in the law of karma. Yes, makakarma din sila!
- If a boss is giving you an unfair treatment and you tell him nicely to stop it and he won’t stop, report him to somebody higher than him. The purpose here is letting somebody with an authority know that you are being mistreated as a new employee, especially if you are low ranking. Do not hesitate to ask for help.
- Be angry when necessary. I don’t buy this conventional advice that if you feel something is wrong or if someone is mistreating you, you have to tell them nicely about it, without being emotional or getting angry at them. But sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you have to do the untried and untested and forget about the conventional wisdom of the wise people or what the bestselling books would say (thanks to Robert Greene). Some people can be mean and abusive. You have to show them that you don’t like what they’re doing to you even if it means showing your ferociousness, even if it means being judged by other people in return. The workplace is a jungle filled with different kinds of animals and beasts. And predators are lurking everywhere out to get you or eat you alive. So show what kind of animal you are and fight back! Showing anger is not that bad. For it makes the other person be conscious about his wrongdoing.
- Do not mind co-workers who are bullying you. Since they’re just rank-and-file employees just as you, their bullying are easy to deal with (although sometimes there is this temptation to punch them in their faces). Remember what Winnie Monsod said: “Behind a bully is a coward.” Naniniwala ako dito. And if I may add, they are not just cowards, but also miserable. So cool ka lang and again, someday, makakarma din sila. Let the universe take care of it. Or much better, pray for them. If you ever have the misfortune to find yourself working in a department where people are hostile, less understanding, less compassionate, judgmental, or whatever, don’t feel bad about it. Take advantage of your situation. You will learn something from the kind of situation you are in right now. For this will teach you about patience, showing goodness despite the indignities, and intestinal fortitude. You will learn more about human relations in this kind of environment. Ang importante, sumesweldo ka at maayos kang nagtatrabaho. Tandaan mo ‘yan!
- Keep going. It’s a tough world I know especially if you are a new employee. And no matter how pleasant or nice you are, there will be people who will not like your presence. Remember that some people will like you and some won’t. But don’t let it stop you from doing your job efficiently and effectively. If you make a mistake, correct it then keep going. If you messed up, learn something from it then keep going.
Written on July 29, 2012- The Best of “Living well is the best revenge” (theuntouchableone.multiply.com)
I am 33 years old. 33 is a very significant number. Because this is the same age when Jesus Christ died on the cross.
So as a 33 year-old and still alive, this is the best time of my life that I shouldn’t take for granted. I’m gonna take all my chances to experience what life has to offer. I’m gonna try everything once. I’m gonna tackle the world based on my own style. I will live my own life. I will continue to march to the beat of my own drum. No matter what people say, I will continue to do what I love most doing, enjoying the most simple of things like reading (if you can’t afford to travel, reading books is always the best alternative), writing (to release my demons), watching movies (I’m almost complete with my collection of my top 20 favorite movies in CDs and DVDs), and cleaning our house (my only form of exercise where it is more gratifying because there are changes in my surroundings). Writing right now makes me happy. However, there is tremendous pressure that I have to face everyday as a 33 year-old single person. Sometimes it takes away the happiness I am feeling. They are forcing me to fit into a mold that they think is “ideal” and “admirable.”
33, based on society’s standards, is a marrying age. At my age, I should be giving birth to babies already. If not, I should be a single mom taking care of a son or a daughter. Based on society’s standards, mas acceptable ang mga single mom than when you’re single and a virgin.
Based on society’s standards, 30 or 31 is the deadline or the latest age that a person should marry. ‘Pag lagpas ka na sa kalendaryo, hindi ka “in” daw. Or perhaps, you’re just a selfish kind of person who doesn’t want responsibilities, who doesn’t want to share. Or maybe, nobody wants you.
Well, I beg to differ.
Being single doesn’t mean being unwanted or unworthy. I think the opposite is more true and I’d rather not go into details to prove it. There are risks and rewards of being single just as much as there are risks and rewards of being married. And I think it is unfair to say that only single persons have selfish reasons. Married people also got selfish reasons why they got married. Selfish reasons like:
“I don’t want to live alone.”
— Married or not, we all go through life alone. You don’t get it? Remember the time you fought with your husband or wife? What did you feel? Didn’t you feel so alone? And it’s okay! Because your husband or your wife is not you. Because your husband or your wife got problems of his/her own that you may not easily understand initially. Our friends and loved ones will not always be there to support us. Regardless of whether you are single or married, remember that the best friend you can have is yourself. Get marry because you’d like to spend the rest of your life with this person and not because you are lonely or this is what society dictates.
“I want my children to take care of me when I am already old.”
— Hindi pa naipanganganak yung bata may mabigat na syang responsibilidad na haharapin. Tsk, tsk. We don’t own our children. It is only our responsibility to guide them, reprimand them in the right direction and set them free when they want to pursue their own dreams where you are not part of. Let them be there for you on their own free will and not because you forced it because you don’t want to be embarrassed with what other parents like yourself would say.
“I want people to stop making fun of me because I’m single.”
— People will always have an opinion about other people. And they will never stop dishing out their own opinions, their own prejudices about another person. It is human nature. Even if you’re married, the next issue that people will pester you about is when are you having a baby. A family is not called a family if there is no kid in the house. This is an added pressure to a new couple. And when this couple finally produced a baby to this world then grew up to be a cute little boy or a girl, the next issue that people will pester you about is when are you going to have your next baby. Your panganay is now ten years old and their usual question is when are you going to have your next baby. A child must have a brother or a sister, they say. You thought they were right so after nine months, you had your second baby. Then all your children grew up to be responsible adults. But one of them turned out to be gay. Then the next issue that people will pester you about is calling your attention that your son is gay. You must be a very bad parent to produce a gay son. See? Opinions of people are endless! People will always criticize you no matter what. Just do what you think is right for you.
“I want to be socially-accepted.”
— Yeah right. Being married is acceptable while being single is abnormal.
For me, regardless of whether you are single or married, what is important is that we love. I know of a professor who has remained single in his 40s because he would rather devote his remaining free time taking care of a sick parent. Another doesn’t have time for romance because she is assuming the role of her parents, working hard to pay for her siblings’ education. The third simply doesn’t want to be married. He is already happy where he is, living his own life without giving a damn to what others say. Some would question his sexual preference. Maybe he is gay. But he’s not. He just feels he is a much better person if he stays single than married. Of course there are a host of other reasons.
But these single people are continued to be judged and questioned about their choices. Some married people would wonder how single people are able to live without meeting that basic biological need called sex. Well, it is none of your business what we do behind closed doors. Besides, I heard some married people don’t experience sex with their own partners. No more seduction existing between two married people. On the outside, you are trying to show to the world that you are happily married. Inside, you and your husband or your wife don’t even sit down to have a good conversation to talk about anything under the sun. So which do you think is the worse?
It’s interesting. And I have empirical evidences to prove this. You can get an inside scoop about what is happening in the marriage of a person based on how he/she reacts or treats single people. Happy married people will give you inspiration, hope, and guidance. That it is okay to be single so make the most out of it. Unhappy married people make fun of the single people. Because they are so problematic and insecure with their own marriage, they try to conceal it by putting down a single person, provoking that single person to doubt himself/herself, pairing him/her off with anyone they could think of, making them feel that they are “unlucky” if they don’t get married.
I have a sister who is now 42 and still single. I think she gets the most strong reactions from relatives and colleagues and her college friends’ parents for remaining single. Everybody would be in a state of shock learning that my sister still doesn’t have a husband at her age, or even kids born out of wedlock (which for them is more acceptable), when the rest of her college barkada now have children of their own. She would just deal with them calmly, sometimes just laughing it off.
Well I don’t. That is why I don’t attend college reunions.
A friend once told me a long time ago that if she would end up a spinster, she hopes she is living somewhere abroad, in a foreign place where “being single” doesn’t really matter. Anywhere but here, she said. I also dream of a place where answering a question of whether you’re single or married does not elicit strong reactions or ridicule. These days, whenever I say I’m single, reactions are overwhelming. Somebody in the office once literally cornered me if I’ve had a boyfriend, if there are suitors, why I don’t have a boyfriend right now when I had worked in Makati where there are so many good-looking guys. It is impossible, she said. “If you haven’t found a boyfriend there, what more here.” And her silliest question of all, “Nagkakagusto ka naman sa lalaki?” She said I’m pretty and it would be a waste if I don’t put it to good use. When I opened my payroll account and a bank teller saw my application form, the bank teller was surprised to discover that I am not yet married. She is also 33, with two kids. She said with my good looks I can breed good-looking children. She was teasing me endlessly and I just had to laugh. Seriously, she said, she hopes I’ll be married one day because it would be a waste if I stay single. An old colleague who is 62 and happy to be single also doesn’t want me to end up like her. A male married colleague also feels the same way. That it is strange that I am not married.
First off, I don’t look for a boyfriend whenever I change jobs. Second, beauty is subjective. Their words maybe “encouraging” but I know that they were just initial reactions because at this point they like me or there is this positive vibe we feel for one another. I had an office friend who, out of her anger to our lady boss, told me: “Hmph, kaya di nakapag-asawa dahil pangit na mukha, pangit pa ugali. Buti nga sa kanya,” not the exact words but something to that effect. So now I wonder what if I disappointed these same people one day. Would they still say the same thing? So whenever someone say I’m pretty, I just let it pass in one ear and out the other. Even without them saying it, I consider myself beautiful in my own way as a single person. And having a man beside me to validate that is unnecessary. I am a girl because God made me this way and I have a purpose, a role to fulfill. I wasn’t born to be a girl just to be married, have kids, be a grandmother then die. It is just one of my options.
If I end up single for the rest of my life, I could enroll myself at the Home for the Aged if I’m still alive at 70. Come to think of it, I am not even sure if I will live that long. Today a mosquito will bite me. Tomorrow I’ll be dead at 33 because of dengue. You never can tell. Tomorrow hasn’t come so I just want to relish and enjoy what I have now. So why worry about not being married?
I am single because it is my choice. I have fears. I turned into a green-eyed monster when I got into a relationship before. It was a period of my life na nakakabaliw! I sometimes wish my heart is made of stone, not feeling anything, not feeling attraction for anybody. Pero sabi nila if you experience no fears with the one you have now, with your love interest, you will never be afraid of commitment. If you are not afraid, then he or she is the right person. My being single could also be circumstantial. Maybe God’s rejection is His protection. Maybe He wants to save me from the fate of an abusive marriage that He would rather see me as a single and happy person than be married but miserable. (And being happy doesn’t mean literally being happy, jolly, vibrant person all the time. It is going through all the motions of life, taking it all in, being comfortable to be sad at times, angry at times, insecure at times and learning from it.) Maybe, I have a mission in life that I can only do if I stay single. Or maybe, I’m not married because I haven’t met the one He wants me to meet. And He wants the both of us to grow up separately as better persons before we meet and fall in love. Or maybe He wants to teach me to love myself first which is the greatest love of all before I can love another. I do believe that God works in mysterious ways. And that everything happens for a reason.
Congratulations and best wishes to those who chose to get married. May seduction never stop between the two of you. As for me, as a single person, I continue to be inspired and in love. Just doing those stuff I love to do puts me in an “in love” state. I do think about the what-ifs. Like what if I do get married? Who would that guy be? Will I turn out to be a good wife, a good mother? But right now, or perhaps for the rest of my life, not having a wedding ring wrapped around my finger is okay.
Written on April 29, 2012- The Best of “Living well is the best revenge” (theuntouchableone.multiply.com)
Well, I am. To me, it is not the answer to our problems in education.
In an article by Perla Aragon-Choudhury entitled “Who’s afraid of ‘K to 12’?” she wrote about the K to 12 Basic Education National Summit that was held at Miriam College where “top educators sought to answer frequently asked questions on the new elementary and secondary curricula that would mean additional years of study.”
“Education Secretary Armin Luistro, FSC, said education was No. 1 in the President’s campaign agenda,” the article said. “He pointed out that those who were able to pay for 14 years of schooling before university were getting into the best schools and getting the best jobs after graduation.
“On the question of whether K-12 was here to stay, Luistro said: ‘My best answer is understandable to those with the Catholic faith. K-12 is like the reign of God. It is here but not yet here. We have an opportunity and what we feel are the most critical answers at this point. They are neither rigid nor perfect.’”
On the question of cost, the article said: “Education Undersecretary for Finance Francis Varela assured summit participants both government and private schools could fund K-12. Valera said the government intended to address both classroom and teacher requirements in two years. But Varela also stressed that the benefits of the new program far outweighed costs. Among other things, the additional years of schooling would increase the earning potential of the graduate.
Varela said: “Students who complete senior high school and then work will have better income opportunities and higher income streams – the cost (of) delayed employment will be offset by these higher income streams. The additional two years of high school also meant a reduction in cost of schooling for graduates who would seek employment afterwards, as the additional years would be free. Those graduates would have to pay if they enrolled in two years of college or post-secondary education. For those seeking college degrees, it was expected the two additional high school years would mean higher tertiary education completion rates.”
I’m confused. What again is the K+12 program?
This news report by Tarra Quismundo entitled “K+12 program ‘absolutely essential,’ says expert” in Philippine Daily Inquirer gave me a straightforward explanation about this K+12 program (Kindergarten plus 12 years):
“The flagship education program of the Aquino administration, the K+12 basic education reform plan aims to improve the quality of Filipino high school graduates by adding two years of senior high school to the current 10-year education curriculum.
“The two additional years in high school are envisioned to serve as a specialization period for high school students, whether in vocational skills, music, the arts or sports. This would give high school graduates the option to pursue jobs with a basic education diploma or proceed to college.
“The program aims to make Philippine education at par with the rest of the world, with 12 years of basic schooling already global standard. According to the DepEd, only the Philippines, Angola and Djibouti have a 10-year basis schooling cycle. Officials said the two-year shortcoming had proven problematic in the accreditation of Philippine graduates when applying for postgraduate courses and employment overseas.”
I was educated in Balara Elementary School, a public elementary school in Quezon City. During high school, I studied in one of the cheapest private schools in Quezon City, the Roosevelt Memorial High School. I was also an “Iskolar ng Bayan” when I studied at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. I am also a non-practicing licensed teacher and I had my practicum in two public high schools in Quezon City, in Ramon Magsaysay High School and in New Era High School. And I would like to oppose this K+12 program.
It is obvious that DepEd has remained blind to the present state of both our public and private schools today. What was it again? They said the government and private schools will fund the K+12 program? Did you know that many private schools also got funding problems of their own and now here you are telling us that they will help with the funding? Are you aware that some private school teachers are now moving to public schools for financial security?
You said once the additional two years in high school is implemented, you will address both classroom and teacher requirements within that two years. The poor state of our educational system due to lack of classrooms and teachers has been a problem for a long, long time. You should have solved that a long time ago before you implement anything that is grand or extraordinary.
And please lang, stop telling me about the budget process, about the increasing education budget, about the 2.2 percent increase of the GDP, because I don’t believe all those things unless I see it. To see is to believe.
If you say there is a budget for education, that our education has improved, bakit bulok pa din ang pasilidad ng mga public schools? Ng mga state universities? Di nyo ba nakikita na kadiri ang mga banyo sa public school? Eto pa, ang baba ng sahod ng mga guro. Nagkakanda-paos sa pagtuturo, nagkakanda-kuba kagagawa ng visual aids at pagchecheck ng papers. Kaya yung iba imbis na magturo ay nagtitinda na lang ng kung anu-ano sa estudyante. Yung iba hindi nagtuturo, puro reporting ang ipinagagawa sa estudyante. There are many teachers but only a few educators. And now you wonder why we have low quality of graduates?
What did you say? 14 years of schooling and getting the best jobs after graduation? Alam nyo ba na maraming may trabaho na gutom pa din? Na kahit may trabaho ay gutom pa din at nagtitiis dahil hindi sapat ang sinisweldo? Na pumapasok sa opisina nila na ang dala lang ay pamasahe? Na kahit may trabaho ay walang ipon? Isang kahig, isang tuka. Kaya yung iba napipilitan humalik sa pwet ng iba para maka-good shot sa boss, ma-promote. Saka wala ka ngang makitang matinong trabaho dito eh.
Dahil gusto nyo sa abroad kami maghanap. Syempre dagdag kita sa inyo yan. Swerte-swertihan ang paghahanap ng trabaho dito, hindi lang nakabase sa kung ano natapos mo o kung may extra two years ka sa high school. At dahil sa hirap ng buhay, may mga employer na sasamantalahin ang pagkakataon. Maliit ang ibibigay sa ‘yong sweldo. So tanggapin mo na kaysa wala kang trabaho. So walang magawa si pobre at tinanggap ang offer dahil mahirap nga maghanap ng trabaho. At itong si abusadong employer ipagpapatuloy ang kanyang kasakiman sa mundong ibabaw, marami pang ibibiktima, uutuin, lolokohin para hindi mabawasan ang kanilang kita. So ano itong sinasabi ninyo na mas maganda ang oportunidad ng mga taong matagal nag-aral sa high school? Yung iba nga may masters degree na hirap makahanap ng work. Graduate ng UP hirap makahanap ng work.
Wala naman yan sa haba ng panahon sa eskwelahan. Nasa kalidad ng pagtuturo yan, nasa kakayahan o motibasyon ng tao kung kaya nyang magpa-aral o mag-aral. Libre nga ang extra two years mo sa high school, ang tanong pa rin, kamusta naman ang kalidad ng pagtuturo? At sino magtuturo sa additional two years na yan eh KULANG NGA ANG TEACHERS! KULANG ANG CLASSROOMS, nasa kalsada na nag-aaral yung iba. Yung iba pinagsisiksikan ang animnapu at mahigit pang estudyante sa isang classroom. Tapos dadagdagan mo pa ng dalawang taon?
You said that the two-year shortcoming had proven problematic in the accreditation of Philippine graduates when applying for postgraduate courses and employment overseas? I don’t think it is about the so-called “two-year shortcoming.” It is about the different culture and policies of other countries and just because we do not have similar policies as them does not mean our 10-year education curriculum is wrong. I really don’t think so. Natural, you have to follow the different policy of another country and not because four years lang inilagi mo sa high school. Maybe to a few but not all. Our 10-year education curriculum was set up according to our needs and capacity as a nation. Forget about global standard.
You also said the additional two years will serve as a specialization period for high school students whether in vocational skills, music, the arts or sports. Do you really mean it? Eh ang baba nga ng tingin ng mga kumpanya sa mga graduate ng vocational eh. Our musicians, our artists, and our athletes here do not get any support from the government, sariling kayod sila, minsan namamalimos pa sa isang senador to get his support so now you’re telling me that?! Eh sinasamba nyo nga dito mga lawyers and doctors, mga negosyante, mga Chinese businessmen or the so-called business tycoons.
And I would have to agree with the College Editors Guild of the Philippines when they said that:
“The Department of Education’s K+12 program may diminish – rather than boost – the qualifications of the graduates. The objective of K+12 is to produce semi-skilled workers as cheap labor for the multinational corporations to exploit. With the inequities in terms of economic status, majority of the people are most willing to enter into jobs no matter how dangerous or short-lived. K+12 is an overrated solution to the poor state of Philippine education.”
Saka bakit ganun, pag Reproductive Health bill, or Divorce bill, you are totally against it because of so-called moral grounds. Because you said we do not need to be just like the rest of the world. And now that you’re promoting K+12, sinasabi nyo naman ngayon na kailangan makisama tayo with the rest of the world.
Can’t we do something first about the facilities, about the classrooms, not just in public schools in Metro Manila but also in far away provinces? There is also a problem with the quality of our textbooks? These basic problems in our educational system are yet to be solved and they’re already stinking, like a pile of garbage, because of long neglect. Then here you are implementing K+12 program adding two years to high school. Ano ba naman yan.
Please, let us implement solutions one step a time. Start with the basics. Don’t just imitate other nations just because everyone is doing it. May pera naman tayo, I mean, tingnan mo nga, ang dami-dami nating senador at congressmen na sineswelduhan. May trabaho man o wala ang pobreng mamamayan, nagbabayad tayo ng taxes para mapaswelduhan sila. Bakit di natin sila bawasan at yung sweldo nila idagdag sa budget ng edukasyon? Bakit di natin i-demolish ang DepEd na may secretary na, may sangkatutak na undersecretaries pa na ating siniswelduhan pero sa matagal na panahon ay wala namang ginagawa?
For me, K+12 is just an additional problem to our already sick educational system that only caters to the elite. K+12 is just focused on getting more taxes by our government.
Written on February 8, 2012- The Best of “Living well is the best revenge” (theuntouchableone.multiply.com)
As far back as I can recall, this is the first time that I experienced the month of December as a summer during the day (it felt like hell is here on earth with its scorching heat) and rainy season during the night (when it rains, it really pours – heavily!). Also for the first time, an angry typhoon – Typhoon Sendong – visited our country in December, during Christmas season, and of all places, in Northern Mindanao where typhoons, according to news, rarely happens.
Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that “Tropical Storm ‘Sendong,’ which slashed across Northern Mindanao over the weekend, might as well have been called ‘Ondoy 2.’ The only differences were that Ondoy struck Luzon, mainly Metro Manila, while Sendong hit Northern Mindanao, principally Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities, and while Ondoy swirled in daytime, Sendong roared in the wee hours of the morning, when almost everybody was sleeping.”
Furthermore, it said, “The deforestration of watersheds in Lanao del Norte and Bukidnon, which feed into the major rivers of Northern Mindanao, worsened the effects of heavy rains, Presidential Adviser on Environment Nereus Acosta said. Deforestration, in turn, was caused primarily by illegal logging. Mining, both large-scale and small-scale, also contributed to deforestration, according to Acosta. Rapid urbanization has reduced the capacity of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan to hold water, reducing the area for water runoff and causing the siltation of the Cagayan River.”
Television is filled with news and updates about Typhoon Sendong’s victims – both dead and alive – showing them in their most pitiful and gruesome state. In a newspaper, I saw this picture of a mother carrying her dead child. There was also this picture of pile of dead bodies no longer identifiable because of the mud that enveloped them. Typical to Filipinos, some still managed to smile and laugh about it as if they’re talking about a funny story that they survived the typhoon when interviewed by reporters. Some were calling out the president for help, to help them rebuild their house. Scenes like these can easily move me, make me cry, but for the first time in my life, I am kind of detached. The only thing that I see is that Typhoon Sendong came there to reveal the dark side of Mindanao – irresponsible mining and deforestration. Irresponsible mining and deforestration. Irresponsible mining and deforestration have been existing there for we don’t know how long! And the people there in Mindanao are reaping what they have sown, like what we experienced during Ondoy here in Luzon. Instead of feeling sympathy for the victims, I am more angry at our local government, at DENR, at ourselves. What is going on with me? Am I turning into an uncaring human being, becoming a preachy “pro-environment” person, not feeling anything when I saw people crying over what they have lost – their loved ones, their house, their only source of income – and finding themselves starting all over again from nothing? I don’t feel happy about it and I don’t feel sad about it either. Anger is more like it – at our local government, at DENR, at ourselves.
Though I know that President P-Noy is an easy target for blame during tragedies such as this, for the longest time, I don’t understand why it’s always on the president, what the hell does the governor, congressman do to help in their province? Aren’t they suppose to represent the president, to act in behalf of the president, because the way I understand it, that is the reason why their positions exist, why they were elected? They are not just there to invent laws that aren’t being passed or if passed, not being followed because nobody knows that it exist anyway. Sure, I see them giving relief goods when tragedy strikes but I wonder, what the hell are they doing everyday, eight hours a day or more when there is no big problem like this? Do they set goals on how to keep their people safe from flashfloods and NOT JUST DESTROY AND REBUILD THE ROADS? Are the villagers aware or know the name of their governor or their congressman in their province, do they get to see these public officials?
It appears to me that they only act on the spot, when something happens, but not before something bad happen. The problem with both our national and local governments, they don’t have contingency plans. The problem with our government is BUREAUCRACY. And because of bureaucracy, even if some mayors work hard to attend to the needs of their constituents by requesting emergency tools and financial aid or everything else that they found lacking in their community before disaster strikes, their efforts would be useless if it would take the national government to respond, because requests have to pass through the Department of Budget or whichever authorizing government body to pass that request that oftentimes results to months, years before the requesting party get to know the answer. And once you receive the answer, it turns out to be a NO, the request was disapproved. What’s making them so busy, anyway? I mean, they don’t have to work so hard when it comes to generating income because the private companies, particularly the working class, the ordinary employees are doing it for them by means of the taxes that are being deducted from their low salaries. They just wait for their budget to arrive and all they have to do is act vigilantly on what is required of them as part of the government, as public servants, especially those people with high positions and getting so many perks.
What does DENR do to protect and conserve our environment? I always pass through East Avenue as I commute to go to my destination and everyday, you could see vehicles producing black, thick smoke from their engines – the smoke belchers – and they are everywhere. There are so many government agencies there, particularly DENR, and my oh my they have a huge building but what the hell are they doing? Obviously, none. They keep on releasing ordinances but it is not being implemented. They keep on reporting statistics of deaths resulting from typhoons or illegal logging on certain places, so now, after getting that information, what do they do about it? None! According to them, they give notices to the local government. As if serving notices equates with “doing something about it.”
And what do we do as a citizen to protect and conserve our environment? When I ride a jeep, there’s a fellow passenger who would tell her child to throw his garbage out the window. Jeez, I wanted to strangle that parent for teaching a wrong thing to her child. You know what, I see this everyday, particularly the open burning of garbage done by my neighbors because garbage collector visits our place only once a week, sometimes they forget to even visit us at all! Just the simple act of throwing or disposing properly our garbage we cannot do.
I’ve complained about our garbage problem, back in 2010, where I had to take a leave of absence from work to go from person to person, from barangay captain (here, I was told we only have one garbage truck for all barangays) to the homeowners association (here, I was told that they plan to request from the mayor one garbage truck exclusive only to our subdivision) to the governor (here, I saw so many others like me falling in line to send a letter to the governor – one was asking for a tuition fee assistance, another was asking for medical assistance and you can just imagine what others were requesting – that I feared my letter would be ignored), just for the sake of disturbing them in their complacency, to let them know the garbage problem in my place which, as I was to discover, they already knew long before I did. Well, they did something about it if I would call it that way. After sending a letter to the Office of the Governor, a month later they sent notices to Office of the Mayor, to concerned persons or institutions informing them about a complaint filed by a concerned citizen (that’s me). I knew about this because I was sent copies of the notice letters (with my complaint letter attached to it) received by those offices that should act upon my request. As a result – none, there was no result. I cannot depend on my neighbors even if some of them have the same sentiment as mine because they’re too lazy they would rather mind their own problems that are enough to burden them. I stopped making demands when I’m losing my finances already due to travelling and absences.
Bata pa lang ako, panahon pa ni Heherson Alvarez as DENR secretary, naririnig ko na yang problema sa illegal logging and deforestration. Noong pinapalabas pa sa TV yung National Geographic in the ’80s, it mentioned the Philippines – if my memory serves me right – as the number one (if not the only) country in Asia with endangered forests, and today, it appears that nothing much has changed, still the same fact. Today, many have died in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro after experiencing the wrath of man-made Typhoon Sendong. The trees from the forests could have saved them, but these people no longer have enough trees, instead, huge logs from cut-down trees were found floating over strong waves of mud and floodwater from the mountains down to their condemned communities, hitting unsuspecting victims that killed them on the spot, destroying more properties, drowning the animals (luckily, some of them survived), bringing more danger to already dangerous places.
“The logging families in Mindanao, who became filthy rich from the massacred forests, are responsible for the deaths of almost a thousand people who perished in floods. Their blood is on their hands,” says PDI columnist Neal Cruz.
“It might have been war, what we saw in Cagayan de Oro, and it was,” says Conrado de Quiros. “We have been at war for a long time now, and these are its effects. We have been at war for a long time now, and the casualties are mounting. We have been at war for a long time now: With Nature. It is a war we cannot win. It is a war that is sealing our doom.”
I must say that because of our complacency and ignorance – if not ignorance, ARROGANCE – I just wish those who are irresponsible and numb – the smoke belchers, the people who burn and throw their garbage everywhere, illegal loggers, mining companies, lazy governors and congressmen, even some of the locals who could possibly be the ones cutting those trees — will be the only ones to be directly affected. To experience losing everything from flashfloods so they would realize their wrongdoings. I am bad I know and it is just unfortunate that this is impossible. Because we are all part of the human race, everyone is under no mercy. Nature doesn’t care if you’ve been good or bad. When tragedy happens, as humans who got no superpower, we can only despair and we are free to blame our God, to blame our neighbor, to blame our lazy politicians, to blame our president to let out our grief. Nobody gets strike by lightning for doing that.
The Philippines is known to be a rich country because of its natural resources (this explains why we are being granted loans by foreign entities like World Bank, why we have increasing debts) but we ourselves are destroying it. We complain that we are poor but what we don’t realize is that it is us who are making ourselves poor by just sitting pretty, thinking that typhoons will just come and go anyway. We Filipinos are resilient people, we would tell proudly to others. “This, too, shall pass,” we often say. But being mere creatures, we are powerless to the things that Mother Nature can do – like earthquakes, tsunamis, like signal no. 3 typhoons. We never learn from our tragedies. Because we never learn, the lessons from Mother Nature are repetitively being taught to us. Just observe: rainy days during summer and summer days during rainy season. Not to mention, a typhoon during December. What do you think is the message? If you cannot guess, still blaming God for the floods, for the death of your loved ones, the lesson will be repeated until we drill the lesson into our heads that our environment is just as important as the air we breathe. Reminding me of that favorite TV series I watched as a kid, I feel like we are living now in a “Twilight Zone,” where the turn of weather events causing calamities and deaths are getting more and more weird each time, getting more and more abnormal each time, causing confusion and distress and mystery, scared to guess what the ending of the odd story will be. And I’m getting afraid of the years to come, of many typhoons to come.
Written on December 22, 2011- The Best of “Living well is the best revenge” (theuntouchableone.multiply.com)