C'mon... Unearth Me

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Champion of the Poor

I was teaching in high school some two years ago when I was commissioned by our assistant principal, now in New York, to write something about Fr. Al so we can present it during the opening of the SMS National Academic Challenge, which we hosted in 2006.

For the uninformed, Fr. Al is the founder of the Sisters of Mary School, where I graduated in high school. To us, the beneficiaries of his goodwill, he is a saint who opened the door to the community which was to change of lives forever. Founded purposefully for the poorest of the poor, The Sisters of Mary School, operates in South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, and only recently, in Guatemala. This international presence easily gives us the privilege of sharing with millions out there a common father, who will always be remembered as our "Champion."

But before this becomes a biography of some sort, let me go back to that article Ms. Cabanero asked me to write. I was digging on my files and happened to chance upon it and thought may be I should post it in my blog. Please forgive the hyperbole on poverty but I thought I write it that way to convey the message more meaningfully and forcefully. Read on...

Darkness... Ignorance... Hunger... Poverty... In a word, hopelessness. These were the things that greeted my every sunrise. Each day brought a promise not of recreation, but of back-breaking toil; not of the finer things in life, but of the coarse, harsh realities whose hungry fangs had taken deep cuts into my young existence. For how could you even admire the resplendent beauty of the sun caught in a dewdrop when the same sun mercilessly scorches your back as you toil for your next meal? How could even smile and love the rain when it is the same rain that finds its way through the roof overhead right into where your head is when you sleep, making you dismiss a beautiful dream and scamper to another "safer" place? How could you even appreciate what good education can bring when everyone else around you permits passivity and mediocrity as they themselves have succumbed to the seemingly irreversible despair in the wasteland of poverty.

As I looked around, I saw that I was not alone. There were thousands, perhaps even millions who shared the same fate as mine. Surely, God must be away filling the coffers of the rich children, making their lives brighter, more comfortable, more promising. Surely, God must have forgotten us...

Then in the total darkness that enveloped us, just when we were about sink into the mire of hopelessness, then came a man who made us believe that God hadn't given up on us; then came a man who cuddled us in his arms and made us taste how it was to live a dignified life, full of beauty, full of promise, full of hope; then came a man who believed in us, who never undermined our worth, who loved us without question; then came Fr. Al.

It is not without reason that we will forever call him the Champion of the Poor. These grounds, this school will always be a testament to that great love of Fr. Al, his zeal for the abandoned, his passion for the deserted.

God, You were never really far. Because of Fr. Al, and all the selfless people who sent with him, we thank You. We will never be able to You enough.

God bless us! God bless the Sisters of Mary!

There was a confusion as to who will deliver this piece during the program. The final days approaching the opening saw one of our co-teachers reading this on the background as a group of students gave life to it in an interpretative play. But as our principal found the intensity of emotion lacking in his delivery as the piece required, she asked for a replacement. They later found that there was no one else who could give justice to this piece but the writer. I ended up doing the voice-over and saw the welling of tears from the audience during the kick-off.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Explanation

My laziness is getting the better of me these days. If you might have noticed, I have not posted for almost an eon that my site looks abandoned already. Tarantulas took this side of the virtual space under siege with their enormous cobwebs. My title, "C'mon... Unearth Me," can now be interpreted literally as it is buried in layers of dust as of this writing. The words in the previous posts have rearranged themselves in protest to form an ancient language that can only be deciphered with the use of the likes of Rosetta stone. (They may have reverted back to English when you stumble here by chance, but believe me they did!)

I've been meaning to post blogworthy events that happened during my long hiatus but they've been perpetually put off. It's a pity my audience got tired of going back here to check on my latest posts but went away frustrated. Now I have to start anew to win old friends back and earn new ones.

Actually, I did not really go away. Many times, I visited and reveled on my, as well as my blogmates', entries but just went away unnoticed. I was like a silent watchman of the valley who wandered aimlessly leaving no mark of ever being there. All along, I was rebelling against myself for my incorrigible procrastination.

The finally break the void, I am posting my three entries to the three-part blogwriting contest in Sykes. And to answer your next question, I did not win and that was justifiable enough! I don't mean to sound self-saving but I did not really put my heart into it.

The first piece entitled "Becoming Nocturnal" was a recycled one as it was my same exact entry that won first place in an intra-account essay-writing contest. We were to talk about what we were before Sykes and what we were thinking about the industry before we got in. The article was really out-of-bounds with the theme but I submitted it anyway and afforded myself the surprise of my life when I got wind that I qualified for the next round.

The second round was supposed to talk about our experiences while in Sykes. My entry, which I called "The Tale of a Sykeser," almost missed the deadline. I had to email it to the office three hours before the cut-off as I was on a sick leave that Friday.

"Living the Call" did not make it to the deadline. The mechanics said it was the final blog that will complete the loop and needed to describe the drive that makes us stay. I thought I'd let it go but when my boss pressured me to submit one, I had to apologize profusely to the McDonald's crew who had to dig my draft out of the bin as I knowingly left it there just hours earlier, resolved not to participate in the last leg of the contest.

I know I gave my opponents an easy contest. I know I should have done better than submit haphazardly written articles. But all that is water under the bridge now. I'll just make it up next time, in keeping with my manana habit. And I hope there is a next time...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Living the Call (Part 3)

After I took that final step that took me to Sykes, I was caught in utter disbelief at the decision I just made. It was a leap into total darkness. The thought of severing myself from the academe, the place I thought I was fashioned for, was flabbergasting, to say the least. Was it the right decision or was I just a willing victim being tossed into the inroads of globalization?

That was two years ago.

Today, so much has changed from that unnecessary and self-limiting naivete. I am living an experience with a mindset which is a 180-degree-shift from where I started. From where I'm standing, with the ascent of paradigms and insights afforded by the Sykes experience, I can look into the future pregnant with resolve to continue living the call.

And I'm glad I heeded that call. In hindsight, it is impossible to leave it all to happenstance. Consider these:

How can I be in the wrong place when I'm comfortable with the people I work with, who are not just my colleagues but best friends, more importantly? In the middle of difficult situations, I never run out of neighbors who are only too willing to haul me out of the wasteland I'm dumped into. My leaders are not old-fashioned, bespectacled forty-niners but are self-driven individuals whose passion for excellence is just so infectious. While professional respect is maintained, I can always share a drink or two with them and share life's inanities and glories without hesitations.

How can I call it mere coincidence when Sykes catapulted me into undiscovered realms of self-knowledge and reinvention. Opportunities to further my innate talents abound I thought I finished unearthing them in my school days. Almost everyday, I gather new information it's just so exciting to know I'm earning while learning. I'm overjoyed at the thought I am seen not just an associate who can talk my hours away but a multi-faceted individual infinitely endowed with potentials, and there are people interested in me showing off those talents.

After all, I believe in Sykes' promise: How far will you let me take you?

Take me to the heights of my aspirations, where dreams are lived, real and boundless. Bring me to realms of untold riches hidden under the guise of undiscovered capabilities just waiting, biding their time to be tapped. Fly me to verdant enclaves of infinite possibilities of showing the world that I matter, that I am significant.

The Tale of a Sykeser (Part 2)

Let me tell you about someone I know like the back of my hand.

Like a tongue that involuntarily reaches for the aching tooth, his desire to unravel the mystery within this growing subculture of call center agents was unrelenting. Torn between perfecting his trade in the profession he figured his first and last and satiating his thirst for self-realization, he felt like he was caught between Scylla and Charybdis. To either stay ensconced in his comfort zones or tread on uncharted terrains might mean foregoing rare lifetime opportunities.

He decided to take his chances and jumped ships, albeit reluctantly, and found himself in Sykes.

As with anything that's novel, unfamiliarity breeds intimidation. From the time he stood in front of its edifice, its enormity swallowed him whole leaving him little faith and giving more room for self-doubt, which was easier to believe. But when you are ushered with welcoming faces, warm smiles and a full backing from people who believe in you, you can't help but put your guard down, smile back and unleash you talent. He found the culture so people-centered it's the closest to home he can ever be with.

By far, it was in Sykes where he experienced the ultimate challenge of his will to survive and the breadth of his talents. There had been times when he felt too weak in the face of seemingly insurmountable tasks and raising the white flag would have been the easiest thing to do; but that, too, would have been the most ignominious. He only had to look around to see that he's not alone and realize that greatness does not belong to the chicken-hearted.

Here, too, did he have his most humbling of experiences. Always known to achieve and not settle for anything less, his frustrations came flooding in when he found himself inept and lacking as evidenced by his performance relative to the others'. In numerous times, the temptation to find solace in a resignation letter was just too overwhelming. But then again, that, too, would have been the most inglorious act. While the environment frowns upon mediocrity, passivity and inaction, there is a tolerance for self-improvement that allows one to zero in on his weaknesses and polish them to perfection.

By the way, did I mention he just loved the opportunity of brushing elbows with celebrities in Sykes-wide celebrations--all for free? What about on how grateful he is for finding in this place the person who now makes his heart skip a beat?

And I do apologize for not mentioning early on that I was talking about me.

Becoming Nocturnal (Part 1)

I was once asked if I'd give being a call center agent a try. Having been a teacher for the most part of my career life, shifting to such a direction was simply unthinkable, out of place. Then my mind raced into thinking of people with dark circles around their eyes due to lack, or perhaps absence, of sleep with coffee-filled mugs on one hand and lit cigarettes on the other. I brushed the idea aside faster than I can say"No!"

Not until last year. It was a whirlwind of events, so fast that everything is now a blur. I found myself in Sykes, a call center agent.I ate my words.

The adjustments I had to undergo had been made less tougher because I was with a group of equally adventurous and daring young professionals.The rigorous and intensive financial training sessions were interspersed with fun and light interludes which almost always got us out of the way and eventually earned us the reputation of a rowdy, undisciplined, and out-of-focus pack. Nonetheless, we managed to pull it off and were permitted to man the queue.

Being on the AMPF floor was, and still is, an opportunity for me to brush elbows with self-driven and highly motivated individuals. Nowhere else in my previous working experiences had I been in a group so intent and focused that everyone seemed to be looking in one direction. The air is charged with infectious electricity to push oneself to the limits.Months after taking live calls, few of my colleagues started being recognized for achieving the goals expected of us to meet. That was when I also started to worry. I always thought and regarded myself highly that it was so hard for me to accept that my batchmates got ahead of me while I trail behind. Surely, there must be a way to the top.

Thankfully, success stories in the account were something that were not kept secret. Best practices and innovative ways were shared around making it almost impossible to get infected with the"I-know-I-can-do-it" virus. Achievers were praised indiscriminately and I couldn't wait to bask in my fifteen seconds of fame. Well, who doesn't? It was great that in those sharing sessions, the associate-on-the-spot found a way to look at success in a different perspective. Others looked at it as a means of self-realization, some considered it a result of favorable luck being on their side, while for the religious, they offered their everyday toil to God and therefore attribute their feat as a God-given favor. Soon enough, I started being counted among the achievers. It felt good to contribute to the team's achievements and to simply belong to a high-performing group, at the envy of and inspiration to others, could not be more fulfilling.

Teambuildings were also sources of insights. The camaraderie that these activities sought to strengthen was so palpable that it doesn't seem to want reconstruction. Everyone seemed to be very supportive regardless of each others' idiosyncracies. In one of the games where every team member had to be lifted to get past the hurdle, some displayed hesitance due to their size, perhaps an accumulation of months of unchecked diet and eternally-postponed exercise. The assurance that team members afforded was just so overwhelming that crossing the hurdles went without the fear of disgust and ridicule. Here is a team mature enough to mind petty concerns reserved only for the small of minds.

Then later I found that nobility of character does not solely reside on being a teacher, as I previously thought. Call center agents too can stand among the nobles. It is noteworthy that some team mates are socially-conscious and extended invitations for outreach programs. These were opportunities to connect with the less-privileged members of the community, the latest one being with the orphans sheltered at Cebu Hope Center. The experience was heartening and humbling at the same time.Heartening in that our being able to make them smile and share what little that we have with them was more than enough to fill our hearts with ineffable joy. Humbling in that the children, though they have nothing, were a source of inspiration for us, the more fortunate ones,to continue with life's challenges no matter how the going gets tough. Bon, my team lead, couldn't have said it better when she declared, "We sought you here because you have something that we do not have."

Overall, I'm enjoying the call center experience. I discovered one more side of me--that I'm able to thrive in an industry I used to distance myself from. I'm glad I found and now belong to this group. Or is it this group that found me? I can only wonder. The realization of success and self-fulfillment manifested in a job well done will always stay deeply rooted in my consciousness, wherever destiny takes me. And I will always look back to this account as the important contributory element in forging this realization.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

World, meet my friend Melvin...

If there's one person in the world who knows what lies in the deepest recesses of my heart and mind, I'd say it's him, Melvin. There simply are things that I can comfortably drop in front of him without having to feel the fear of being judged and rejected. I love the startled look all over his face when I let a bombshell explode and the hearty laugh that ensues.

Our paths first crossed some 13 years ago. We were classmates in the entire duration of our high school days in The Sisters of Mary School. We were never really close buddies back then perhaps owing to the fact that we dispersed into different families (more on this set-up in a future post) after classes were over. Today, though, in our frequent trips to memory lane, we are able to single out several instances that involve us both, try to relive and make a good, cathartic laugh about them. Yes, we have a knack of glossing over the embarrassment and uneasiness of those past experiences and turn them into one big, boisterous laugh.

Let me tell you some interesting tidbits you might want to know about him. But before you howl and condemn me as a gossip-monger who'll squeal at every opportunity, Melvin has given me the rights of full disclosure as I see fit and becoming. I'm here to tell the stories of the people who helped shape my perspectives but definitely not at the expense of mutual trust based on confidentiality. For the record, when I texted him that I'll write about him here and that it may involve some issues he might want to keep silent about, this was the exact reply and I quote, " Go! Il give d freedom to write anything. Hehe" - 11:02:37 AM 06/09/2008. He's probably not aware of the dangers of absolute freedom but I'm honored at the unconditional trust. I promise not to betray that confidence in me. So, here it spills...
  • Melvin had the most celebrated love team with Lord Jim during our high school days. Batchmates, straight or otherwise, could not help but turn green with envy at the sight of the seemingly perfectly-tailored pair. Melvin was especially renowned for his kissable, red lips then and Lord Jim was the cute, boy-next-door guy whose disarming smile was more than enough to sweep you off your feet. Today, though, word has it that Lord Jim is now irretrievably married and with kids to boot, gone was the charm of those enchanting eyes and the magic of his bewitching smile. On the other hand, Melvin's lips may have remained red but I don't know if they're still kissable. Also, he has misty eyes turned to someone he codenamed "W" but I encrypted it to be someone initialled "M."

  • Melvin's physique, which now borders on obesity (hahaha!) is never indicative of his build way back in high school. He was lean and short then. His now-imposing presence doesn't fail to surprise our batchmates who haven't seen him in years, having outgrown everyone, even the tallest perhaps in the batch (I don't wanna know his secret!). And with his monstrous appetite, I'm seeing a BIG future for him. Good luck!

  • Melvin is a fully-stuffed 160 G iPod. Play a song and chances are, he'll sing with it uncut from start to finish. I don't know where he got all the time to put them all in his head but he's the man to beat when it comes to memorizing songs. And his choice transcends international borders and language barriers, too. Last I heard, he was singing some I-don't-know-if-it's-a-Greek song by an Israeli singer. On an unfortunate note, though, he doesn't sing very well. Clearly, there is a distinction between knowing a song by heart and being on the right key when vocalizing it.

  • Melvin is a hard-to-please movie critic. His reviews make you want to watch the movie yourself 'cause his opinion is always full of command and conviction. In the end, you may find yourself disagreeing with him but you'll always admire his choice which, like his songs, breaks geographical boundaries as well. I will always be thankful for him introducing me to a plethora of Asian flicks at http://www.crunchyroll.com/. Now, I have an unlimited(?) resource of online movies and have picked for myself my own favorites.

  • Melvin was the igniting force that pushed me to write my own web log (okay, blog!). Like I mentioned in my first-ever entry here, I first heard of blogs in 2003 but never got the patience or perhaps, the interest in reading other people's online journal, let alone write my own. Then, Melvin came into the picture. He started talking about interesting people through his constant bloghopping. Which made me nose around and eventually start my own. Trivia: This blogspot account was set-up first than his, although he already maintained one in Friendster.

You see, I can lengthen this post to an endless descriptive notes about Melvin but I better stop here. I guess I have just shown one clear point and it is this: we allowed the free influence in each other's lives and decided to afford a full, no-holds-barred acceptance. I cannot claim that I know him like the back of my hand but I know him well enough to tell what he's thinking by the look in his eyes. More than anything else, he's a friend whom I can freely share just about anything--from my loftiest of aspirations to my darkest of secrets. Like they said, he can swallow them all hook, line, and sinker.

Cheers to a lifetime of friendship, Melvin!

Friday, June 6, 2008

There's a lot of sex in the city

After a movie-length bout of fighting off lethargy, all I got from watching Sex and the City was a sore heart.

I can't nail it in the head but I don't know why. Perhaps, it's because the movie was depicted so close to home that it either reopened some old wounds caused by heartbreaks or magnified the fact that I love but has no one to share it with. Perhaps, this was what Tiggah meant when he said "lugubrious," and frankly, I'd rather not feel anything than nurse lugubriousness inside me. I don't like the hollow it creates especially when I wake up from a disturbed sleep, 'cause it is during these times when the emptiness seems the deepest.

Foremost, it must be known that I am a staunch believer of love. No amount of heartbreak and pain can ever shake that belief. I fell, got bruised and scarred but the risk of taking my chance at love was worth it all. No regrets! The possession of that beautiful memory that's forever etched in my heart far outweigh the searing pain of the heartbreak and the long struggle that went with it. So, after everything has been said and done, when the pain and even anger has subsided, one can choose to either put one's guard against further damage or continue believing the beauty of a perfectly imperfect love. I choose the latter.

And I don't think I'm alone in that decision. The string of events that transpired over the weekend was a foolproof testament to that fact. Only that it is guised in its other subtle forms--one of them, promiscuity.

I, and two other office mates (names withheld until permission is granted), decided to take a firsthand look at the city's nightlife and confirmed it unquestionable implications to the throbbing sexual activities behind what meets the eye.

First stop was a male sports and entertainment club (Tarzan Boy) where dancers showed a lot of skin (read: all skin) for patrons to feast on while performing those provocative gyrations. As the night wore on, we noticed the seemingly patterned clothing economy: from tight-fitting jeans, to briefs that almost did not hide anything anymore, to thin and scant cloths that make you wonder why they're there in the first place, to nothing at all.

As if such display of bodies was not the way to cap the night, we proceeded to the heart of the city, to a place called "Numero Doce" where the crowd was just as aggressive. An almost-all-gay (alright, others call themselves bisexuals) music and dance bar, the sight of two guys kissing, oblivious of the people around, qualifies for the ordinary. And the chance of finding one of those guys necking with another guy is not at all flabbergasting. Gosh, that's how networking is defined in this place! When my friend whispered, "This is Sodom and Gomorrah," I could not agree more.

Indeed, there's a lot of sex in the city.

Whether this is a result of that interminable search for love or just plain promiscuity, I really cannot tell. Nor do I think it is for me to know.

As for me, the relentless quest is not yet over. Methinks that it won't stop until I find somebody who combines sex with love. 'Til then, I'll never say that my heart has found its home.

Anyone? lol