Dear Person in the Government Who Have Served for a While


I loved JR Santiago’s “Dear Young Person in Government” post in Facebook that I was inspired to write this version of “Dear Person in the Government who have Served for a While”. “A While” is relative…It could mean 10, 15 or even 20+ years in service. But I’m drawing from my own experience from year of service (10 years, 7 months, 5 days to be exact). Here it goes:

Dear Person in the Government Who have Served for a While,

Congratulations! You have made it this far. You’re still in a sector that has a very direct role in improving the lives of our countrymen. Here are some things I’d like to share with you which I hope you can keep in mind as you continue with your public service:

1. Be a mentor and be open to new learning. There are young ones who have the right heart and mind for service. They just need mentors who will be willing to guide them and show them by example the right values. They may also have fresh perspective which you do not have. I hope you will be willing to still learn.

2. Be humble and listen. Higher positions, better educations and awards should not be used as an excuse to power trip or frighten young ones. Rather, these achievements should be used as means of illustrating how your work can impact others and make a change. Also, young ones are colleagues whose inputs deserved to be considered for whatever output your team is supposed to deliver.

3. Be kind. Just be kind and the world will become less suffocating.

4. Be patient. Young ones do not have the same understanding of the processes and system as you do. They may not be efficient as you are. They will have a learning curve. Be patient and teach them. See coaching and training as a long-term investment.

5. Learn from young ones. They know a lot about technology that can make jobs easier. They can make your presentation visually more appealing. They can make data analysis more efficient. They can make your life simpler in so many ways.

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What is Business as Usual?


What does “business as usual” mean? Does that mean we should not be wasting time? Does not that mean we should be less demanding?

Depending on a person’s line of work, a day or two means life and death. For others it could mean a few days to breath and take some reprieve.

How can we tell people it should be “business as usual”? People are getting sick and dying left and right. Some are at the tip of their sanity thinking how to fend off for themselves, for their families, how to have access to hospitals, medicine, etc.

Sleeping on New Year’s Eve


It’s funny I am talking about New Year when it’s almost mid-February already. The other day while humming to a tune, I went back to a conservation I had with a friend during New year’s eve. She asked me what I will be doing while waiting for 2020 to come. I told her I will just sleep, like what I always do. She then told me that by sleeping on a New Year’s Eve, I am missing a lot. But apart from the changing year, what is there really to miss?

I have always slept on New Year’s Eve for as long as I can remember. I am not really the type who waits for the midnight to come, review how my year went by and come up with resolutions. During the long Christmas-New Year vacation, I literally shut down as it is the only time I get legit rest from all the craziness in Manila and from work.

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Fight or Flight


When people ask me these days what I fear the most, my answer would always be “to belatedly realize that I have already become part of the system I abhor”. In the Filipino language, it’s better known as “nilamon na ng sistema”.

It’s not only me who have this fear. After meeting with high school and college friends lately, I realized most of us have this fear or worry. Our common denominator is we are all in our late 20s or early 30s, struggling to climb our respective career ladders and general “in between” either in our respective communities and workplaces.

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At Home


I sleep and sleep some more.

Because it’s not everyday I can sleep soundly. 

I eat and eat some more. 
Because it’s not everyday I can enjoy the food I love. 

I stare at the skies and stare some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I can appreciate a clear sky full of stars.

I laze and laze some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I am not chasing time. 

I play and play some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I get to be a kid.

At home…

I live and live some more. 

#TGIF


I got out of the van and looked at my wristwatch. It was 8 pm already. I had a very long week and today was no different. I also barely slept the previous night.

I can see the mall from where I stand. I crossed the street and debated on whether I should still eat dinner and buy some groceries. I was too tired to do both. I decided to just go home.

It was still quite a long walk…12 mins I think.  On my way home, I thought about the things that need to be done for work. There are a lot. I cannot even fathom where to start and I cannot imagine if there is an endpoint.

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Where is Home? 


My brother  arrived in our apartment a few days ago exclaiming he is going home over the weekend. I asked him why he is going home again when he just visited a month ago. He replied, “Because I am suffering from homesickness lately.”

I often forget that my brother has only lived in Manila for 3 years. To date, he has lived most of his life in Bicol. On the other hand, I am more of stranger and occasional visitor in our family house, being away since I was 11. That’s almost 17 years.

I tried to recall what it feels to be homesick. Missing your pillow and beds at home? I don’t have those. I don’t even have a room and a cabinet in our house. The local neighborhood? I barely even know who lives in our street now.

Earlier, I had the same thoughts again while looking at the Christmas lights that decorate the trees on the way to my apartment. I said to myself, “It’s almost Christmas again. I can finally have a long vacation at home.”

Home will always be an interesting concept for people who have lived in so many places. What defines it? The physical structure, the people, the memories? As for me, home… is a place where my mom and siblings are, where I can enjoy my favorite dishes, and exist for a while without caring what the world demands from me.

I guess I am homesick after all and I am not even making any sense.

Human


Every now and then

You stumble, you fall 

To a point where you can’t stand up. 

You cry, you bleed

To take the pain out. 

You fear, you doubt

Because you can’t hope enough. 

Yet you smile, you laugh

Because that’s when you are at your best. 

You love, you give

Because you’re human,

You’re unpredictable. 

You’re beautiful. 

You live. 

Parallel Existence


You and me, we move in the same space.

The left is yours. 

The right is mine. 

An exact replica of each other. 

You, 9 to 6. I, 9 to 6. 

You look up to  sky to count the hours until sunset. 

I look down to count the hours  until sunrise.

You, wondering how it is to be different. 

I, trying to define what is normal. 

You and me, we move in the same space. 

But never at the same time. 

What Changed?


Your style has gotten classier.

You don’t fret over sales.

You value quality over quantity.

You don’t say yes to every invitation.

You don’t bother to please everybody.

You pause.

You laugh at yourself.

You listen.

You shut up.

You don’t stress over every single thing.

You stand up for yourself.

You choose your friends.

You choose your battles.

You are confident.

You are wiser.

Nothing changed.

You just got older.

Constant


If people were waves

That come and go,

Can there be a constant

That tie them to their roots?

 

If you were a constant

Amidst a sea of people

How much effort do you require

To keep you from drifting away?

 

Written on an early morning while walking the streets of Paranaque. 

 

Changing Paths


Yesterday after defending a research program for renewal, one of the board members of our office asked, “What is your background?”.

I replied, “I took Chemistry as my undergraduate course, then International Health for my graduate course”.

He then replied, “Wow. I never knew you were a chemist. Do you want to go back to the lab?”.

I was so tempted to reply, “Why, do you want to pirate me?”

Hah. It’s not the first time I got this reaction in my current line of work. The project leaders of one of the studies I manage once asked me, “Do you know any chemist? I need one for the project.”

I joked, “Do you want to hire me?”

Shocked, he then replied, “You’re a chemist? We’ve been working for a while now, but I never knew!”

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Summer


I am still surprised when I see college students going out and about this summer. I often forget that major universities in the Philippines have already implemented academic shift. Classes now start in August and ends in May. This also means that summer breaks which used to be from April to May now fall on the not so summery months of June and July.

As a kid, I would always count the days until summer break. I felt 10 months for a school year was too long. Time also went by too slow. Summer meant I could wake up late, laze around for the whole day, and bury myself in the comfort of my books. I remember devouring shelves and shelves of books. It came to a point my mom would scold me because she had to keep my books in boxes under my bed.

Summer also meant lots of sunshine. We would go to beaches around the Bicol Region. Back then, sunblock was not yet a fad. Instead, we were forced to apply baby oil to protect out skin from the sun. And since I hated applying any form of oil in my body, by the end of summers I would end up so dark than my usual color.

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Relativity


I was in my hometown two weeks ago for the Holy Week break. It’s an annual practice—going home during Holy Week, All Soul’s Day and Christmas breaks.  Apart for the reason these are only periods I get to spend time with my family, these are also the only periods I take long breaks from work.

A favorite habit of mine when I am at home is to sit in our terrace during sunset. Because it faces our gate and of the almost 1.5-meter elevation of our house above ground level, I get a good view of the setting sun, the road in front of our house, and railway that bisects the road.

During my recent stay, there was a day that I was suddenly overwhelmed by the utter calmness of my surroundings. There were hardly any cars passing by. Children were happily playing on the street. I could vividly hear the sound of chirping bird and insects, and even the sound of the blowing wind.  It is a fact that in some places like my hometown, life can still be slow and uncomplicated. Yet, it still amazes me I am still able to experience how slow and uncomplicated life can be.

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Thoughts and Singapore


As an ASEAN country, it can’t be helped that the Philippines is often compared to Singapore. After all, Singapore is an epitome of a success story from its efficient government, transportation system, sustainable development strategies, etc. Considering it is such a young nation (at 50 years old), one can’t help but be amazed at how fast they have progressed.

Marina Bay Sands: one of the icons of SG.

Marina Bay Sands: one of the icons of SG.

I had the opportunity to visit the country last September for a training on the co-benefits of climate change and health. It was my first time to go there and it was great because part of my training was on the policy process of Singapore for environmental protection and air pollution management. I had nothing but admiration for how they do things in the country. At least from the training alone, I got the impression that the local leadership is strong and has good vision. Policies were evidence-based, and properly implemented and monitored. Pride is imminent not just in the manner our speakers, who were government officials, talked about their work but even in the way ordinary Singaporeans whom I had a chance to interact with speak of their government.

SG: Cultural melting pot

SG: Cultural melting pot

One does not even need to be in a formal training to learn a lot about the country. I realized from my daily encounters that the citizens are highly aware of their history particularly of the reforms Lee Kuan Yew carried out. They are also very knowledgeable on laws from housing, waste management, energy efficiency to air pollution and of the heavy repercussions for violating the law.

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