Punta Fuego Weekend

I have just been awarded as the Best Trainer for our program, and I have been invited to go to Club Punta Fuego for two days of relaxation, the company’s way of showing its appreciation towards a job, or jobs, well done. But to be honest, I am so preoccupied with my current projects that I almost forgot about it. I would have completely forgotten about it if not for my manager reminding me of when it’s going to be: this weekend.

I have been to this place before, twice. I got the same thing when I started out as a representative. But I am still looking forward to going back, not only with a different position, but with a different outlook. I finally got the award I was longing for. A boost of confidence, two days of rest, and then off to my next mission.

Here are some of my personal photos when I first went to the said place. I am not adept with a camera, so apologies for any ugly pictures.

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   Oh, and my blog banner was also taken from the same place.

   It’s not as glamorous as Ren’s travels (read it here) but it’s a welcome change to my usual routine: work, gym, sleep, work at home. I know, I’m a bit of a workaholic. At least the company appreciated, hehe.

 I hope to be able to take more pictures, maybe this time with myself on the shot. I have to befriend someone and have him/her take my pictures this time.

 The only thing missing is my partner. If only she could join!

Street Observations 2: To Help or Not To Help

He moved tentatively in the bus, taking two steps toward the driver. He smiled sheepishly and asked if it was okay to solicit. “Ok lang po ba magsolisit?” was his exact question. I am not sure how or why, but I read his lips. I did not hear him talk, but I knew what he said. The driver just nodded, and he thanked the man maneuvering the huge vehicle around the usual Gil Puyat traffic.

I felt a mix of emotions when I realized that he was going to ask for solicitations. My paranoid side told me that he may be another bible wielding religious preacher that will tell us about the devils of everyday life. He could also have been a shameless beggar who asks for money and then buy smokes or alcohol.

He moved a bit closer to the middle of the bus, when he accidentally hit a passenger with his bag. He immediately said sorry, motioning with his right hand, to signal something similar to a stop sign. Fingers pointed upward, palms facing the stranger. I heard his voice, and the anguish was detectable, like he had gone through a lot, not only during the day, but all throughout his life. That did not stop me from doubting him.

He took two more steps forward and leaned on the chair I was sitting on. I clutched my bag tighter, even if I did not have anything worth stealing. I only had a few coins with me, a P1,000 phone, a charger, an umbrella and my running shoes. Still, I did not want to lose anything that day. I wanted to make sure that if he was a thief, and if he had accomplices with him, that I would not be a target.

My thought was interrupted when he started to talk. The despair in his voice did not fade. He wanted to ask for help for his two kids who were sick, cough and colds. “Manghihingi lang po sana ng kaunting tulong para sa mga dalawa kong anak na may ubo at sipon”. He continued on, answering whatever question I had in mind, like why does not he work to help his kids. He said he had been fired because he was declared “not fit to work” because of his high blood pressure. He spoke sincerely, erasing any remaining doubts I had. I looked behind me, noticing that he was holding  a plastic bag. Again, like he read my mind, he mentions the answer. It apparently contains his solicitations for the day, all P140 of it.

The bus halted to a stop due to a red light. He almost fell, but he was able to hold on to my seat. The plastic bag hit my head. He said sorry, and moved to collect coins, or whatever he could get. P140 did not feel much when it touched the top of my head. It’s like a symbolism of what the amount really is: not much.

I was torn between helping him, or ignoring him. I have watched and seen too many scammers, and too many donations going to waste, that I was hesitant. I kept my eyes locked to the seat handle, pretending to not hear him. His “thank you”s  to everyone, even when they don’t give any help, seemed real. Like he was thankful for even being able to ask for help.

I was still frozen in place, thinking too much of my monthly budget (I was already over my target), that he went passed me. I was waken up from my mental computation by his hand, tapping me on my shoulder and giving me the warmest “thank you” I have ever heard. I did not even give him anything. I could only look at him guiltily. I felt sorry about not being able to help, not even a small amount. I could have given him P1, or any other amount, but I didn’t.

He walked over to the exit, his plastic bag’s contents seemingly unchanged. He gave the driver a friendly tap, similar to what he gave me, and said “Salamat”, Filipino for thank you. He went out of the bus and gave a quick glance at the passengers and waved, saying another “thank you” for everyone who helped, if any. He did not even wait for the bus to come to a complete stop. He might have been worried about disturbing the driver’s schedule.

I watch him from the window. Like a bad follow up, rain started to fall, giving me more reason to feel guilty. He did not have any umbrella with him, just a thin handkerchief over his head. He jogged to the nearest shelter, a gasoline station. A few seconds later, he boarded another bus.

I hope I don’t get to that point, having to swallow my pride and admitting that I was too weak for anything else, but still strong enough to ask for help. With too many people with bad intentions, and the economy being what it is, it’s difficult to give money to anyone, even if I feel like they really deserve to be helped, just for the reason of survival. Every little amount is important.

I just hope they survive too.

Street Observations 1

I seem to be talking to myself  a lot more ever since my self development plan was made. I am trying to be more fluent in English verbally, so I try using the language majority of the time. Not everyone of my acquaintances are willing to help out, so I resort to talking to myself, even in public. I try catching my mispronunciations, and even grammatical errors. I have a little black (clear)book for grammar structure tips, and I read it everywhere and anywhere, as long as I have the chance. I also find myself writing down observations as well. Thus, this post. I will try to keep a steady flow of posts and hopefully my observations will be unique. It’s hard to be original nowadays, especially that there are already a good number of great thinkers.

I wonder what is with our aversion to foreign language? I am a bit scared to speak English outside of our office premises since Filipinos tend to be negative with any language foreign to their ears. Earlier today, an American tourist was walking with his Filipino friend along the Stock Exchange bus shed. The tourist was, of course, speaking in his native tongue. The Filipino had, of course again, no choice but to speak in the same language, since the tourist does not know a lick of Filipino. I gave the duo a quick glance, and my eyes accidentally moved to a guy walking beside the two. Eyes fixated at the Filipino speaking in a foreign tongue. I looked at the rest of the people at the bus stop, and true enough, their gaze,  eyebrows meeting at the center, followed the Filipino. I overheard two ladies laughing and saying “trying hard naman si koya!” (“that guy’s trying too hard to speak English”).

Another incident happened a few weeks ago. I was walking toward the same bus shed, and used an escalator in the underpass to get to the other side of the street. I stood at a step and heard two Koreans (I was able to tell by their language, and their fashion. Koreans have a unique look) talking to each other with, you guessed it, their native tongue. The people in front of me then turned around and gave the Koreans a quick glance, and then snickered. “Parang mga alien!”, was their whisper (“They sound like aliens!”).

I don’t think Filipinos fully understand “respect”. We are known for being very courteous, but sometimes, we are also very disrespectful. We mock other people when we know that they don’t understand us. I talked to a friend about this, and he mentioned that it maybe a result of the masa effect. The term “masa” in our vernacular means “the masses”, or the majority. The term is used, and abused by politicians and celebrities looking for general acceptance. If you are not part of the masa, or has a characteristic that is different, even in a very minute sense or detail, then the masa  will hate you.

I even received a snapshot (from a college friend) with a very ironic thought. Someone said “ang tunay na lalaki, di nag-eenglish! hahahaha” (Real men do not speak English!), followed by another screen cap, “Feel ko lang nauungusan na tayo ng mga karatig bansa natin” (“I feel like the Philippines are no longer at par with our neighboring countries”). If only the creator (I have no idea who it is) of the post realizes that the only way to stay competitive is to learn a foreign language, such as English, in order for the Philippines to stay afloat. Let’s face it, no other country speaks Filipino, and we can’t force them to. You can’t expect to trade or barter with a person who can’t understand your language, can you?

If people will give me funny looks or laugh at me at what I’m trying to do, then so be it.

If “real men do not speak English” then I guess I’m not a “real man”.

  I’ll take those instead.    

Tuition Fees

It’s every parent’s dream to see their sons and/or daughters graduate, and be able to get a nice job, start a business, give them grandsons and granddaughters. I also have the same dream, although I do not have kids yet, nor am I already married. I am, however, already thinking about that future. I am hoping to save up enough money to start my own business (I tried buying one franchise out, but I got outbid) and be able to support my future kids.

After seeing this picture, though, I felt more underprepared for the future. This is a simple calculation of possible tuition fees for the year 2013. The schools included in the list are, some of the top educational institutions in the Philippines today.

The disclaimer reads:

  1.  Tuition quoted are only estimates for AY2012-2013 and do not include miscellaneous and other fees (which actually drives up the total school/university fees, and ultimately, the parents and the guardians crazy.) 
  2.  Assumed increase in tuition is 10% per year from year 2012 to year 2030.

A lot of people will argue that the above data is very misleading. Maybe, but this is an eye opener to what may be a possible scenario: Philippine tuition fees can and will get too high that a lot of people will no longer be able to afford to go to school or continue their education. Let’s not forget the cost of the uniforms, your kid’s allowance, food, fare, gas, and all the other payments. The result will be an increase in out-of-school youths, thereby increasing the crime rate.

Oh wait, that’s already happening. If you look at the 2012 stats in the pictograph, those amounts are already way beyond the average monthly earnings. I wonder if the minimum salary will also increase by year 2030.

Probably not.

PLDT Customer Service



         Due to a schedule mix up, I had to go to the office early morning to cover for a colleague who had an unfortunate emergency. It turned out that the training class that he was supposed to facilitate was not until next week. With extra time on hand, I decided to call PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telecommunication) Customer Care to report an issue with our landline, which directly affects our Internet services. Coincidentally, another teammate called the same company just a few minutes before I did, to report their issue.

            We called the hotline with different demeanors. I listened in on her conversation with the representative she spoke to, and she was frustrated, clearly. I feel bad for the representative. To think that we work in the same field, and that my teammate and I are Trainers / Managers, who preach “patience” to our trainees. I found out that she does not practice it, making me think that maybe majority of us do not practice it. I waited for her to finish, and true enough, even after the conversation, she was ranting about how the representative “did not have the listening skills” and should“talk a little more eloquently”.

            I strongly felt that she could have been nicer to the representative, considering that we work on the same field. We have been on the other side of the phones. We took calls before, and worked our way up to where we are at right now. I have sympathy to all representatives who make a living talking over the phone. I have felt and went through every possible thing that they may have gone through, or may have experienced. I use that as my reason to be nice to them, even if I feel very frustrated with the issues I experience with their product (if any).

        I called the same hotline to report the issue in our services, and I got a female representative. I honestly forgot her name, but she was okay, and although she did sound nervous, I did not feel like our conversation was affected by it. I understand, maybe she was the same rep that my teammate talked to, and after hearing that I also had an issue to report, maybe she was expecting me to berate her too. She apologized profusely, and asked me if it was okay for me to be transferred to the Tech Department. I confirmed, and told her that she was doing fine, and I wished her a good shift. She gave me a surprised laugh, and then thanked me. I was hoping that she calmed down after that.

       After a few minutes waiting on hold, another female representative answered the phone. I was humming the hold tune when she called my attention. I missed her first “Hello?” so she had to say it twice. I forgot her name too, unfortunately. Our conversation went normally, ended with her sending the report, and she advised me to check both connections every now and then to see if the connection would return to normal. I said ok, thanked her, and greeted her a good morning before we ended the call.

      I have heard a few stories about PLDT being slow with resolving issues, but my past issue (same problems as what I currently have) has been resolved quickly (within the day). I am patient, I hope that they will be able to resolve the issue and prevent this in the future.

       I just can’t help but look back at a time when I was also taking in calls: receiving commendations, getting happy customers. But on the flip side, I also had my fill of F-Bombs, curses, racist remarks and the like. Just remember that if the rep sounds lethargic, he/she might be sick and was still asked to go to work, or that he/she has a family emergency that he/she was not able to attend to. Maybe they have been asked to go to work 6 straight days or more. Maybe their manager is one big asshole who keeps on putting them down. Maybe they missed their lunch break and were hungry. Maybe they did not get paid the right amount, or worse, on time. Sometimes, the “slow” service that they give you is because they too, are limited to “company policies”. I’ve been there, and it does not feel nice to have to break out the bad news to customers, even if you really wanted to help them out. Not every rep is callous, heartless, stupid or lazy. Sure there are a few who really are murder-worthy. But majority of the are humans too, and I can relate to whatever they feel.

 **Update: I checked our internet services when I got home and it’s up and running! The land line still does not work though. Maybe it’s the wires or something. I will surely call back tomorrow to maybe get someone sent over to check on the hardware. 

** Update (9/4/2012): The land line service is back online. A technician even called to check up on us. All is well and good.