THOSE YEARS OF EMPLOYMENT
I was still 20 years old when I graduated from college (Letran) and immediately after, I went to the State University (UP Diliman) for my post grad. That was the time when I started working. I must earn my graduate degree by teaching as per contract with the Foundation (Headstart Intl). And so, despite the fact that I have not reached the age of majority, I was already a part time faculty, a Pre-school supervisor (my post grad was on SPED for Disadvantaged Children and Youth) and as an under-cover community organizer in depressed areas of Mandaluyong City (read: activist leader under the tutelage of the Head of the Church-Military Liaison during the Martial Law regime).
At that age, I was no longer dependent on my parents. They gave me education and that was enough for me. However, much as I wanted to be independent, they never allowed me to live elsewhere. At that time, I was already thinking of how I can sustain what my parent’s needs. That was also the first time I got to appreciate how it feels to work and be given remuneration. Oh, how great indeed it was to receive my first pay envelop. For me, it was like having a real diploma too. It was as surreal a deal, as a matter of fact, the real deal.
Unfortunately, I never received the full completion of the contracted post grad course at UP because I pursued the equal protection clause in the contract. Since I was already performing the task of a supervisor, I demanded that I be given a salary commensurate to my effort. What for I was an activist for the rights of workers if I cannot secure my own. Anyway, according to the school registrar, I breached the contract and that was the end of my UP days.
I was jobless for a while but not for long. I did a lot of art works on the side hence my parents never noticed anything at all as far as my work status was concerned. Arts gave me extra dough to indulge on.
A friend recommended that I should try marketing. Accordingly, I was a good speaker. I could be a respectable pastor if I intend to organize a cult or a salesman.
And so, I applied in the private sector.
And eventually, I got employed as Territory Manager of Mead Johnson, Phil.,( the company that manufactures Sustagen, Lactogen, nutritional products and some pharmaceutical items too) but not without difficulty. Those in the outfit were better known as “Detailman, “ or plain Salesman and it took a while to be one. As soon as I reached 21, I was already a full-fledged Salesman of an American multinational firm in charge of Nutritional Division in Bicol Region.
But before that, I still could vividly recall the tough and demanding recruitment phase: we were around 256 applicants. I know because I happen to hold card number 256. I was the latest applicant and also the last to be interviewed.
A month of rigorous daily exams and panel discussions later, our numbers dwindled. There were a lot of casualties already. There was no physical agility called for but most of my peers were collapsing for exhaustion. We were given paper works and required to fulfill its completion through a maze in a mock bureaucratic exercise. It was very draining but I learned a lot about government procedures. A number of exercises and module appreciation were also given as demonstration for glib talking. Drug salesmen must have that acumen of selling a gram of flour and shoving it as if it was a cure-all medicine. From 256, only 53 remained. Well, I was at the tail end, as the 53rd. And why not? Salesmen must have the height, the posture, the projection, the gait, the personality, the looks, the bearing, the works. On top of that, all of those with me in the remaining list were virtually mestizos. I was the only one looking like a native!
Anyway, a number of my good-looking batch mates miserably flopped because they failed in one essential exam which I excelled. It was actually a mock selling session where a salesman, in our case the applicants, must be able to sell a piece of junk to a prospective customer, the sales supervisor. My mestizo counterparts looked awkward. They do not look like selling. They look more like buyers! When it was my turn to sell, having heard me explain (I was an instructor and activist, remember?) and, well, I knew how to detail the significance of the junk, a number of my supervisors, the prospective customers, almost were tempted to procure my product. I had a good laugh after that and an appreciation that indeed, I had a career built personally according to my social skills.
It was then that I realized that the company was only looking for 2 Detail men. Right at the penultimate round where those who passed will have to hurdle another marketing obstacle, I learned that we were only three survivors! Luckily, the third guy backed out. But that was not the end of it. My remaining companion does not know how to drive. During the Finals, we were supposed to be given keys to our service vehicle. I got mine and blow me down, I was the only fellow, the last man standing that time.
And for a while, I was the company’s apple of their eye, the only one tutored by their best imported trainers and given the necessary sales orientation as if the life of the firm depended on me. I was like Jet Li in the movie Romeo Must Die, or Silvester Stallone in First Blood!
For nearly a year and a half, I had the most exciting, the most fulfilling, the most educational job in the planet in my estimation. I was a budding marketing novice for a while but I almost became the top salesman of the country after a semester, had my father not prodded me to transfer to another job, that time, in government service. If there is any job worth fulfilling for newly grads, it should be in sales if I may hasten to add.
One becomes matured overnight. It is a period to expand patience, to learn behavior, to anticipate danger, to appreciate winning and rise above the occasion in case of failure. I learned everything there is on the street and it prepared me to meet life head on. How I almost got the reward as the top salesman in the country in just a few months is another story.
At the age of 22, I was the guidance psychologist of the Bureau of Corrections (then Bureau of Prisons). Government service was some kind of alien to me at the onset having been oriented in the private sector previously. It was more on spending time, stretching the full 8 hours even if there was nothing to accomplish in the first place. It was more on acting in a subservient way, of kowtowing with fellow employees, of nodding continuously to be agreeable that mattered.
It was like witnessing how government spends tax money on people whose tasks were to pass the whole day talking shit and nothing more.
During my first month, notwithstanding my school training as psychometrician and as clinical psychologist, I was instructed only to fasten paper clips on thick forms and thereafter dispose it in boxes for purposes of filing. I was so skilled in attaching paper clips that I could do it with my eyes closed, mouth continuously talking and even packing almost a sacksful of documents and bringing it home so that the next day, I could roam around the office and learn other concerns.
In my second month, I tried to move around and expose myself further in all corners of the prison camp. Sitting the whole day was never public service at all. Hence, I would persuade my fellow officers to tutor me on how they facilitate their responsibilities. And they were all excited to pass on to me their functional routine. My hands were full, my colleagues could gallivant, all of us were winners.
On my third month, I already knew how to receive a newly admitted prisoner, how to give prison numbers, provide admission orientation, prepare statistical data base on inmate profile, interview the inmates for case work, draft the case summary and eventually formulate the initial classification methodology.
Whether my office mates liked it or not, I can perform the mission of a 55 warm body organization all by myself!
It was a period of learning how to manage the prison community. And since I started it the proper way, I handled prison management as if I was born to lead the incarcerated humanity. It would also be my job for almost four decades after ascending several folds in the organization up until I reached the apex of my career.
It was also a period for scholarship. Having a loose and wobbly time, I tried to enroll and complete one post graduate course after another. I completed my Law (but could not find time to review and take the Bar ever since) and Masteral course in Diplomacy on top of additional skills training options in sculpture, culinary arts, acupuncture and a number of government sponsored seminars on IT, statistics and public administration. Later in the day, I also enrolled in three different doctoral degree courses in Public governance (Ateneo), Physics (UP) and Criminal Justice Administration (PCCr) but I was directed to attend in various provincial assignments and could no longer hold on to my classes.
In government service, I have seen faces, places and made historical strides. I have contributed in my own humble ways expressive accomplishments in serving the people. I can however do and perform so much in a specific period with competence in the most honest way I could. Compulsory retirement was near and it was time to take a bow.
As the saying goes, “Go down the stage while the audience is still clapping.”
Fourth and final Job
Finally, I am now on my own. I am no longer concerned about time. As a matter of fact, I seldom check my watch. I eat only when hungry and not because it is time to eat meals. I wake up anytime I want to. I am no longer attached to any company, private or public except in social media like facebook. I maintain a website if only to be counted in the world. Like a bird, I can fly in any direction.
I am no longer a subject matter for intrigue, for envy, for bashing, to be threatened every now and then, to be lured in any activity, to be forced to understand, to be enjoined and compelled.
I am no longer an entity worth manipulating and schemed at. Suddenly, life becomes ordinary, normal and commonplace. I have lived for quite a time in the limelight and now it is time to be unknown.
I am no longer structured. I am free and my only job was to appreciate everything I have been through, read a lot, write so much, communicate with friends, dream some more and pray that my loved ones would succeed in traversing life in their own terms.