Monday, April 9, 2018

...Conversations: On Happiness, Faith, and a Lazy Society...

When I became a houseband, I thought I'd have plenty of time writing random blogs such as these, because I was able to make a lot back then. However, all the mobile gaming, the baby playing, and the writing assignments got in the way. Besides, Facebook offers long posts now so I get to semi-blog there.

Life becomes uneventful at home in a different country; not much interaction with strangers or new clients as before, and not much deep talks with friends over alcohol. That doesn't give me a lot to work on in terms of content.

There are a some conversations I had recently that I thought could be bundled together as a blog.

A Conversation on Happiness

Not a life-changing movie, but at least a conversation starter.
(Source: Netflix App) 


The wife and I watched "Happy Anniversary" on Netflix and it sparked an interesting late-night conversation.

For context, the movie is about a couple who have been together for three years and are celebrating their anniversary a day after going out with a couple friend who can't seem to get enough of each other. On their anniversary, the girl just blurts out "I'm not happy," as the movie follows them around for the day, reflecting on what changed that led them to where they are in the relationship.

It got the wife thinking if we are happy, and that we're not falling into the same hole that the couple in the movie had.

Personally, I think things could be better.

The social norm is that a man provides for the family, and the wife keeps the house in order. Women fought for gender equality and are now also significant individuals in the corporate world. Despite these however, people frown upon the notion of a woman providing for her and her man. It's a sentiment that a friend shared with me; as a major in humanities, he thought his fellow students of social sciences would be more accepting of the fact that it was his wife working while he stayed at home, but he was wrong. They had the same judgmental looks and questions as others have.

If I were to base my happiness on social norms, then I shouldn't be happy. However, I've thought of how I would be happy way before I had this life as a houseband, and frankly, I don't care what society thinks of me.

My wife is afraid that she doesn't have time for me or our baby because she's busy with work. I assured her that she's never too busy to not have time for us, and me being home should give our kid the parental presence we both want him to have.

I was raised by parents who worked full-time, while my wife was raised by parents who managed a business. While we grew up fine and understood early on that our parents were away most of the time precisely to provide the life that we were living, we both wanted to have a bigger presence in our children's lives when we became parents ourselves.

In a perfect world, I would have a corporate job that pays well enough to support our family, while my wife gets to take care of our child without taking work home with her. But life's not perfect. I don't have a job, and my wife usually needs to work overtime to finish her job.

I told her that it makes our union work. She fulfills her professional goals, while I fulfill our personal goals. We can't have everything. Even the "perfect" couple in the movie was later revealed as too absorbed with showing off how "perfect" their relationship was instead of living an actual life.

If I had a corporate job, our baby would grow up like we did; it's not bad, but it's not the way we wanted to be as parents. We need to live with the sacrifices, but ultimately, we concluded that we're happy - it's not the same happiness as the world dictates, which made her question it a bit, but we ended that conversation knowing that we were happy in our own way.

Forcing Faith vs Spreading Faith

Truth, in different perspectives.
(Image Source: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/fc/85/39/fc8539e853281b5805e0c2355ae18c80.jpg)

I've been blessed to have my faith grounded on the environment of Don Bosco Mandaluyong before it was questioned by the various philosophies we studied in UST.

It made me stubborn in the eyes of most elders, and is probably why "pilosopo" is a negative term in the local language while it is an honor to be called a "philosopher." Anyway, no one alive today could say that they personally knew Christ, Mohammed, or Buddha to know for certain which religion speaks the truth about life after death. We all base our knowledge of faith in books handed to us, based on the accounts of people who came before us.

Faith, I think, is very subjective. It's why Catholics go for the Sacrament of Confirmation because at birth, they are born into a religion. However, once they are able to think for themselves, they have the opportunity to choose if they will "confirm" what has been taught to them.

I believe that I can share my faith in God with people, but I don't believe I need to push my beliefs on anyone.

My dad and I had a lengthy argument about going to Church while I was in college. In a nutshell, I didn't believe that I should be going to Church because he said so, and I also think that we had the same reasons for going. As a result, I made a conscious effort to not attend mass with him which frustrated the heck out of both my parents. I prayed, and I went to church with my then-girlfriend (now wife), but I never announced it, didn't show it. I just did.

There are a lot of religions existing, and while some don't agree with your beliefs, it doesn't make them wrong. After all, you can't see all sides of a house from one vantage point; you can't assume a house is blue because you see one side is blue, the other side might be red for all you know.

Given this, we should respect a person's beliefs and not force what we think is right for them.

My parents shared this story of my uncle getting sour about Padre Pio's oil not healing my aunt that he loved so much. They feel like he's ungrateful for all the help Padre Pio has done for them, especially after some stories my dad shared about praying for my aunt and sharing her pain in order for her to be relieved by some of it.

Personally, I think it's a clash of beliefs broken down by a man's pain. We all wanted to help my aunt, and the best we could do was pray for her. At the time, there are moments of relief, and they shared it with my parents. However, we don't live with her everyday to see what she's going through on a daily basis. My uncle went all out in helping her; modern medicine, prayer, heck I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to talk to spirits in his effort to ease her pain.

Despite all our efforts (my uncle's, most especially), she succumbed to her war against sickness that she so valiantly fought for years. No amount of prayer could give us the miracle we craved, nor was there technology to save her completely.

My parents believe that it's partly because my uncle never really shared the same faith that they had when he prayed to Padre Pio. My uncle believes that that faith is useless because it didn't save his dear wife. I think it was just her time, and she was living in borrowed time for quite a while because of her will and determination to live, fueled by her family's love and everyone's prayers. It hurts, but it was inevitable. They wanted to blame something, anything, for their loss, when no one really is to blame.

My point in telling the story is that forcing faith isn't spreading it. Faith is internal. You can't tell a person to have the same faith in the things you believe in and expect them to just follow you like sheep. When we get to a turning point in our lives, we don't all take the same path.

This realization dawned on me after a conversation with someone about personal struggle. We came to the conclusion that while external help is appreciated, "personal" aspects like practicing faith shouldn't be forced on the one in need. There's walking a thin line on guidance and completely ignoring that line.

A Lazy Society

1) Giant cups
People on screens all the time and riding personal mobility devices - we're on our way to the future Wall-E has shown.
(Photo Source: https://imgur.com/gallery/jT43R)

This is more of a conversation with myself.

I write long posts, and this one is no different. It's a personal writing style that I've adapted even when writing for publications. On print, I understood the concern for the word count, but online, where there are no pages to count, I found it difficult to understand.

Of course, I am no sheep that only does what he's told. I asked until I understood.

People don't read through something that's too long. They always want easy to consume articles that gets direct to the point in order for them to move along to the next thing they're supposed to do or read. With information at the tip of our fingertips now, everything is so fast-paced that last hour's news is already old news.

Scrolling three times to finish an article is already a chore for most people that they don't bother to finish the whole article if it goes on that long. I don't think a lot of people will get to this part of my blog precisely because of that.

However, I think this is why fake news and online scams are so prolific at this day and age.

We're all about speed and breaking news that most people ignore how the news came about or the source of the news. Most people read the headline and assume that's all there is to a story. Some people don't bother to check out who sent them an email, assumes it's official, and submits their personal information to scammers who take advantage of their carelessness.

Society has become lazy because of how easy life is. The internet can give you so much that it almost eliminates the need to talk to people in person. After all, whatever you could talk about is probably on the internet anyway. Heck, even musicians aren't original because somehow their songs resemble some unknown artist's beats.

I like writing long articles because I want to paint a clear picture in my readers' minds but also provide them with the proper establishing facts that led me to that picture. However, this lazy society doesn't care about facts and instead wants to offer their own closed opinions on the matter. Instead of igniting an intelligent debate, I only get to interact with trolls whose only concern is to make a comment, even if it's just "FIRST!" or a bunch of other nonsense.

I still like to write and cater to an audience, but it's getting increasingly frustrating to come up with articles that are click-friendly instead of something that tickles one's thoughts.

I think I too have become part of this lazy society, as I'd rather post a thought immediately in order to spark a conversation with people who read it instead of waiting to make a blog out of it.

Hopefully, doing this blog lets me change that.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

...Ander De Saya...

Ander De Saya
n., literally translates to "under the skirt (saya is a traditional Filipino skirt)"

We live in a patriarchal world. If we didn't, then women wouldn't have fought for equal rights for so long.

Despite all the talk of gender equality, the elevation of the male gender has been so deeply instilled in our minds and culture that some people cannot hide their honesty.

Women still can't drive. Men still wouldn't want to ask for directions. Women are not women unless they know how to do house chores. Men are expected to be the breadwinners of the family.

As a jobless husband of an empowered woman, I've been subject to ridicule by people close to me, and even those who are not. Some people say it. Some people imply it. I don't assume. I know.

And yet, it doesn't break me down.

It's not that I am accepting reality of being an "ander de saya" but rather because of the strong relationship I built with my wife. Yes, that empowered woman I am married to.

She wasn't my dream girl, but something drew me to her; from the day that I met her, I felt that I could grow old with her. It hasn't been perfect, but such is life. We'll have different perspectives on some instances, but we eventually figure out what's best for us.

After 13 years of being together, that energy that drew me to her has not waned.

I still want to grow old with her.

Every decision that I have made with our relationship has been grounded on that.

I was constantly by her side even if she had zero interest in me when we first met, because I knew that I'll have a lasting relationship with her. We broke up and I met another woman, thinking she won't find what she was looking for if she knew I'd still be there for her. We got back together after wounds have healed. I asked her to fight for us when she wanted to break up again because I knew that if she gave up then, it would be the last of us. I didn't ask her to marry me when she asked me because I knew she would eventually feel incomplete if we did right then. I supported her decision to work overseas because I knew it would help her grow. I asked her to marry me when I knew that she was ready because I knew that was. I left my life in the Philippines because we were going to start a new one of our own.

When we had our baby boy, we had to move to a place of our own in Singapore. After moving in to our new place and getting settled in, we sat down on the couch with our baby boy sleeping on our side. We had a realization that that was going to be life; just the two of us, sitting together on a couch.

And that is why I think I made the right decision when I pursued her as soon as I met her.

This is a woman I want to grow old with. This is a woman who I could talk to about random things nobody else would care about. This is a woman who will walk hand in hand with me on the same path in life that I will tread. This is a woman who makes me proud to wear a houseband badge without a care in the world about what other people think.

People, close or not, have given their suggestions and opinions on how a man like me should act in our relationship; some with pity, some with disappointment.

However, at the end of the day, without the eyes and opinions of everyone else, what matters is what our relationship is together; how we interact when we're sitting alone on a couch.

I still firmly believe that we are not given challenges in life that we cannot overcome. I think that everything will fall into place in God's perfect time.

While I am a bit frustrated not being able to help my wife financially right now, we both think that this is probably for the best, because our baby boy is still too young to be left alone.

And for that, I'll cook and do house chores, because this is what we need at this time. 

I don't feel less of a man doing what I'm doing, because women have fought for my wife to be in a position where she is in today, both in our family and in the corporate world.

While some find humor in this term and maybe even claim that those who are "ander" have no balls to be the head of the family, I daresay I have bigger balls being an "ander de saya" than those who use their balls to leave their families behind.

I am a proud "ander de saya" because of my family.

Celebrating 13 years with this woman. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

...The Customers That Grind My Gear...

Having worked in the food industry for almost a year,  I realized one thing; the customer is never right. As customers, we have this complex that we should be treated right because we are paying in exchange for goods and services. However, it shouldn't give you the right to treat the person rendering the service as your slave. You may be on different sides of the cash register, but both of you are making a living. And no, acting as your personal slave isn't what that person is supposed to do. If that's how you are treated at work, then you should probably make a blog of your own about how you should be treated.



Alas, this is my blog, and the purpose of which is to help you not act like jerks or idiots the next time you're in a restaurant.

I made a list of the various types of customers I have a beef with:

The Entitled

Who They Are:
These are those who would claim to come all the way from the other side of town who may have possibly gotten lost and maybe even paid more for the cab fare. Because of all these, they would like to get something more, or maybe even a discount in order to make up for what they spent on the cab.

Sample Conversation:
Customer: I'll have Meal A please.
Me: That will be x.xx dollars, thank you.
Customer: Can't I get a discount? I went all the way here to taste your food.
Me: Thank you, but I'm sorry, I can't offer a discount.
Customer: But I had to take a cab and I had to take a leave from work just so  I could try your food.
Cab Driver: Why the hell are you dragging me into this?

Don't Be Like Them Because:
Nobody asked you to put in the effort that you did. The payoff should be the food being good. It's not the restaurant's responsibility to make you feel better because of what you've been through in order to find the place. Don't get me wrong, it's heart-warming  for the restaurant owners to know that people actually try to find their places that aren't easy to find, but come on. It's not like they begged you to take a cab or whatnot. Chances are, you made the effort to find it because you learned that the food is great. That means, they will survive with or without you.


The VIP

Who They Are:
There are people who actually buy food, but later ask for something more. They don't pay more than the regular customer, but they expect something more in terms of service and food. To these people, I say; who died and made you so special?

Sample Conversation:

Customer: Can I get value meal A?
Me: That will be $x.xx.
Customer: Can you give me more meat and more rice with that?
Me, deep inside: Why?

Don't Be Like Them Because:
Your money has the same value as the person before or after you. Unless you are a stockholder of the business, saved the world from extinction, or are responsible for achieving world peace, don't think for a second that you should be treated more than the average customer. If you owned a restaurant and had someone like you as a customer, do you think your business would benefit in fulfilling The VIP's every request?

The Menu Maker

Who They Are:
Customers who read the menu, but when they go to the counter, they ask for a combination of something that isn't on the menu. As a customer, I understand the need to get value for money, but standing on the other side, I can see how servers are limited by the machines in front of them, and the kitchen to the resources that they have.

Sample Conversation:
Customer: Can I get the Meal A, with Meal B on the side for the price of the ala carte meat?
Me: No, sorry.
Customer: Why?
In my head:  If I tell you, I'd have to kill you.

Don't Be Like Them Because:
The restaurant is not your kitchen. If you want things done your way, no one will question you in your own kitchen. However, in a restaurant with a set menu, you just point to what you like and deal with how it is served to you. Not every restaurant has a secret menu, unlike what the internet would want you to believe.

The Genius

Who They Are:
Much like the Menu Makers, these are customers who think they have a brilliant idea about your menu that they seem to believe you have not thought of yet. While the Menu Makers read off their "brilliant" combinations from the menu, The Geniuses tell you what's missing from your menu.

Sample Conversation:
Customer: Do you have Sinigang?
What I actually say: No sir/ma'am.
What I really want to say: You do have eyes to read that it's not on the menu, right?
Customer: You know, you should. Because it's sinigang. People love sinigang.
Me: We have a roasting pit. It's a bit difficult to roast sinigang. But sure, we'll keep that in mind. Thank you! (Yes, I am an asshole.)

Don't Be Like Them Because:
When a restaurant is put up, the owners have painstakingly thought of what kind of food they want to serve. It may be driven by their passion, their beliefs, their family, or whatnot. As such, their menu is a reflection of all these. When you go to a Japanese restaurant, you can hope for sushi, but don't expect every Japanese restaurant has it. I think it borders on racism, reducing a cuisine to one or two dishes.


The Businessman

Who They Are:
They are the combination of the VIP and The Genius. They are customers who know better than the server or the owner. They will insist on what should be on the restaurant's menu or what the price should be. They don't want instant gratification the way VIPs want, but their egos want to believe that you will adjust your business according to their preference.

Sample Conversation:
Customer: I want the meal A please.
Me: That will be x.xx dollars please.
Customer: You know, this should only be y.yy dollars. It's too expensive!
The Sarcastic Side of my Brain: Wow you are absolutely right! We are robbing people! We should oust our boss and put you in charge instead!
Me: Sorry sir, I just punch your order, I don't make the prices.
Customer: Yes, I know. But you should tell your boss that. And you should also have sinigang on your menu!

Don't Be Like Them Because:
There are several factors running a business, and even if you know a thing or two about it, you probably don't know all the variables the particular business is working with. Because if you did, why are you ordering food and not putting up your own business in the same area? Permits, work force, supply cost and rent are just a few factors that need to be considered by the business owner in deciding what food they will serve and how much it should be sold. The menu is a product of months or probably years of tedious feasibility studies, savings, and passion, and you insisting your needs or wants on the menu is an insult to everything that they have worked for.

The Always-On-The-Go

Who They Are:
People who can't wait to get their turn, and either cuts the line or keep asking questions even if the server is entertaining another customer. Time moves the same way for everyone, but these people seem to believe that their time is more important than other people's.

Sample Conversation: 
Customer: I'd like to order...
The AOTG: Hi, do you have Meal A?
Me: (to AOTG) Yes. (To cutomer) Sorry about that, can I get your order?
The AOTG: Hi, hi, so can I also get that to go?
Me: (To AOTG) Sorry, let me just finish their order.
The AOTG: Ok, ok.
*AOTG's turn*
The AOTG: Hi, so I'd like to have Meal A to go please.
Me: Alright. That will be x.xx dollars. Here's your number, and I'll buzz you once it's ready.
The AOTG: Here you go. How long do I have to wait?
Me: There's a queue, so I can't say for certain.
The AOTG: Yeah, but how long?
Me: ...
Buzzer: ....
Meal A: ....
*When Meal is ready*
The AOTG: Can I also get a drink with that?
Me: Sure, that will be SGD2.00.
The AOTG: *hands over SGD100* Where's the ice?
Me: Let me get your drink first.
The AOTG: Do you have straws?
My hands, probably: There's only two of us, you know.

Don't Be Like Them Because:
People care about their time as well. What you need is a vending machine with no queues, not a restaurant open to the public. Also, understand that your server doesn't have eight hands to attend to your every need as soon as you say it.

The Insta-Fresh

Who They Are:
Customers who order from a fast food, want their food ready as soon as they finish talking, but require it to be "freshly" cooked. Very similar to The Always-On-The-Go people, but more whiny because they complain about the "freshness" of their food.

Sample Conversation:
Customer, at 3PM: I'd like lechon with rice.
Me: That will be x.xx dollars. Thank you!
Customer: *doesn't leave the counter* Is it ready yet?
Me: It should be fast, they will just chop it for you.
*Food comes out under 2 minutes*
Customer: Is it freshly cooked?
Me: No, it was cooked for the lunch crowd at 12 noon.
Customer: But I want mine freshly cooked. Can't you cook one for me?
The devil inside me: Then you came to the wrong place.
Me: Sorry, but the next batch of freshly cooked ones will be at 6pm.

Don't Be Like Them Because:
Food needs to be cooked. Cooking food takes time. How the hell are you expecting freshly cooked food in two minutes? You can't go to a fast food chain and ask for "freshly cooked" food and expect it to actually be cooked in two minutes. It's called "fast" food, but they don't make miracles happen. On that note, understand the type of food you want to eat. Burgers and sandwiches could be freshly prepared and cooked for you easily. If you want to eat meat from a whole roast pig, understand that it won't be cooked at your convenience.

The Thinker

Who They Are:
People who take forever going through the whole menu, then either call the server or stand in front of the queue and still take another lifetime to place their order. These are the mortal enemies of the Instant Fresh Food and the Always-On-The-Go.

Sample Conversation:
*After 5 minutes staring at a menu consisting of literally 4 types of meat*
Customer: Hi. *Intensely looking at the menu* Uhm... can I get... wait.
My eyes: Sure, take your time. I'm sure the six people behind you aren't hungry.
Customer: Ok, can I get the Meal A? Wait. Wait. Uhm.. Does the sampler have rice?
Me: No.
Customer: I see. How much is rice?
Me: It's x.xx dollars.
Customer: Ah ok. How about meal B?
Me: It comes with rice.
Customer: Alright. I think I'll have Meal A.

Don't Be Like Them Because:
The world doesn't stop for you. Fast food menus are posted so that one can decide before they order. Sure you can chat up the servers if it doesn't look busy, but during rush hours, you need to know that there are a lot of hungry people waiting in line.

The Cheapskate

Who They Are:
People who will buy food, but will keep on complaining about how expensive the food is. Some also ask for the "best" thing on the menu, but won't order it because it's "too expensive" for them.

Sample Conversation: 
Customer: What's your best seller?
Me: Try our Meal A, it's our specialty.
Customer: Oh, I see. What's that? *Pointing to the cheapest thing on the menu*
What he really wants to say: Yikes. I did not expect that.
Me: That would be the Meal B.
Customer: Can I get that instead?
What he really wants to say: Lifesaver!

Don't Be Like Them Because:
If you want to eat good food, you have to put out. Don't ask for "the best" if you only have money for an appetizer. Going back to the point about The Businessman, the food offered is priced that way because of several factors you are not privy to. If a business is thriving despite what you think is expensive, then you're probably cheap. If it closes in a few months, then you're probably right in saying it's too expensive. 

The Non-Reader

Who They Are:
People who read the menu with the prices and details, but still ask what your shop has to offer and how much. Also relates to people who insist on having a "dinner" menu in the afternoons and "lunch" sets during the evenings. These people are different from those who actually have visual impairments. They have perfectly working eyes, but they choose not to use them.

Sample Conversation:
Customer: What do you have?
Me: *Directs customer's eyes to the menu* We have Meal A, Meal B, Meal C, and Meal D.
Customer: *Looks at menu with the details* What's Meal A?
Me: *Redirects customer to the menu* Meal A is a roasted pork belly roll.
What I didn't say: ...as stated in the menu.
Customer: *Reads details on the menu* I see. And how much is that?
Anger, in my brain: Serious-fucking-ly?
Me: That will be xx.xx dollars.
Customer: What about Meal B?
*Goes on until we go through the whole menu*


Don't Be Like Them Because:
Blind people would give anything for just a day to see again, and yet you who have perfectly working eyes refuse to use it. I'm not writing this so that the server will have less to do. I am pointing this out because there is a chance that you will be responsible for creating a queue of hungry people.

The Explainee

Who They Are:
Those who need the obvious stated to them. No matter how straightforward a shop's menu is, The Explainee is bound to ask something they already know the answer to.

Sample Conversation:
Customer: What's Meal B?
Me: It's roast pork belly.
Customer: Is it fat?
Me: We've had trouble sourcing pigs that work out, so yes.
Customer: How about Meal C?
Me: It's spicy pork belly.
Customer: Is it spicy?
My common sense to me: Are you really going to glorify that with an answer?

Don't Be Like Them Because:
We have a finite time in this world, why waste it with such unnecessary questions? The circumstances won't change just because you asked the question; pork belly will still be fat, spicy will still be spicy, and lunch sets still won't be available at night.

The Whisperer

Who They Are:
Similar to The Non-Reader, these are people who have voices, but don't use them. They order with the slightest effort for their vocal cords, as if they're ashamed of what they're ordering.

Sample Conversation:

*Kidding! You can't write a script for something you can't hear*

Don't Be Like Them Because:
Talking to someone requires you to actually speak. You may be too hungry to speak, but you won't be fed if you can't say what you want to eat.

The Hungry Hopeful

Who They Are:
These are not limited to customers in teenage years. These are customers who talk to servers as if they're teenagers talking to their nagging wives. They will look like they are listening, but they're really not.

Sample Conversation:
Me: So, right now I only have Meal A and Meal C available. All the rest are sold out already.
Customer: Ok. Do you have Meal B?
Me: No sir, I only have Meal A and Meal C available.
Customer: Ah, ok, ok. How about Meal D?
Me: It's sold out already sir. I only have Meal A and Meal C available.
Customer: Oh, sorry. Do you have sinigang?

Don't Be Like Them Because: 
Asking questions and not even bothering to hear the answers will not help your hungry belly, especially when it's near closing time. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

...Success and Happiness...

A few years back, I found a Facebook message from a stranger. I didn't receive any notifications when I got it. I actually got to read it more than a year later, when I dug through my filtered messages; something I, nor any other person I know, do not do on a regular basis. It was apparently from a junior in college who I absolutely have no idea of but knew me. It wasn't surprising to have someone from college know me; I shoved my face in UST's Faculty of Arts and Letters since the end of my first year of college. What was surprising was the hate I got for being me.

His message went something like "so you ended up as a sales executive? What a joke! You acted like you'd be someone big back in college, but that's what you end up as?"

For the record, I didn't piss much people off in college. I may be tactless, but I know when to be. Besides, I had to have an extra layer of nice in me back in college because of politics. When I'm with friends, I can freely act like an ass. Given this, and knowing this kid was a stranger from college, it was a huge surprise he had these strong feelings.

His message was laden with profanity and it was so old I couldn't even pull it up from my archives. I decided not to dignify it with a reply, and I really just buried it from my memory, knowing it would be an insignificant part of my life. However, today, I decided to write about it. Not because it scarred me all these years, but rather because I wanted to focus on his perception.

Today, I turn 31 years old. I work part-time as a cashier at a Filipino restaurant here in Singapore. Prior to that, I was unemployed for 8 months, after leaving what seemed to be a "useless" sales job (for my stranger, at least) back in the Philippines. On paper, my career seems like it has gone to shit. I am almost inclined to believe that it has, considering I haven't had many interview requests despite my constant applications. Having a Philosophy degree isn't exactly an express pass to the corporate world, especially in a first world country that relies heavily on their filters to meet candidates they think fit their needs.

I should feel like a failure, like that stranger wanted so bad for me to feel. Yet, here I am, happy. Sure, I could be happier, but I'm happy enough to not feel like a failure.

Success is Subjective

Success is a word I've found difficult to define. When I describe it, I can only name a handful of people, but somehow, others may find something lacking in their lives.

Success, as defined by dictionary.com reads:

noun
1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals.
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

The first definition is subjective. In the second, the aforementioned handful may have attained, and I clearly have not. And yet, some people act like my stranger and shit on their accomplishments.

I think, then, that success is subjective. There is no way to absolutely achieve it because it will always be subjected to another's personal goals; apparently for both you and them. You may be the best athlete on the planet on the best team in all of sports, but for a scientist who devoted his or her life to finding the cure for cancer, you have wasted your life.

Conventional wisdom equates success to having money. However, to earn money, one needs to have an above average occupation. Having the said occupation requires one to spend time working, depriving that person of time to travel (something those working their asses off want to achieve) or to spend time with their families (with family being a reason these same people are working their asses off in the first place).

A Failure for Anyone Else

I understand, then and even now, that I couldn't possibly measure up to the expectations of my stranger. He clearly had no idea how much I was earning in my "useless" sales job, nor did he have any idea what I wanted to do with my life.

Back in college, I tried to convince my fellow students that I was the best man to serve them. I didn't realize that it set a bar for at least one of them that I wouldn't achieve. It even went to the extent of him letting me know about it years later.

However, even back then, I have come to the realization that no matter how successful I think I have become, I will be a failure for anyone else. My goals will always be different from everyone else's. Even if I had a "better" life than what I have now, there will still be those who think that I should be better than what I ended up being.

Well, looking at where I am right now, I didn't give these people a high standard.

Happiness

Looking back, I never had a particular dream that I built my whole life to be. I didn't grow up wanting to be something. Career-wise, I wanted to end up what I thought I needed to end up as. As a kid it was to be an engineer because my dad was one; before high school, I thought I needed to be a programmer because people were taking notice of computers and I thought I was pretty good at it; before college, I thought the country needed a change so I wanted to work my way up to presidency.

While I am way too far off from being any of those, I was brought up in such a way that led me to aim for personal goals.

I wanted a relationship where I could tell my kids how awkward their mom was when we first met. I wanted to be a dad. I wanted to be a significant part of my kid's life as he or she grew up. I wanted to grow old with someone who I'd be happy to be with even after our kids left us.

At 31, I am happily married to a girl I got together with more than 12 years ago. From listening to her petty school problems and irrational fears, I have enjoyed being her outlet for work frustrations and random pet peeves. And in a couple of months' time, I am going to be a father. That's three ticks on my personal goals.

People can have their opinion on how I failed in life, but no one can dictate how happy I am with it right now. While some people spend their lives working towards an idea of success planted in them by others, I think I have reached a certain degree of it based on how I define it.

I know that there will be more challenges as the years go by, and that this is by no means near the finish line. But hey, I just turned 31.

And right now, this is what matters; this makes me happy:



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

...Surrender...

I am a Catholic, and if there's one thing I embraced as a Catholic, it's being accepting of other religions. I have had differing opinions about attending masses, and out of personal principle a while back, I made a conscious effort not to attend mass for a while. Say what you want with that act, but it did not change my view of my faith. I never had an issue with the Church as a religion, but I sometimes question how others choose to understand its teachings.

The masses I've had in high school were inspiring to attend because of the youthful energy around, the lively band playing the mass songs, and the relatable sermons of brothers and priests we usually hang out with during break times. Other masses I've enjoyed thereafter were those celebrated by priests who had sensible and inspiring things to say, i.e. nothing about politics. For the most part, Catholic masses feel like a collection of individuals with various agendas in attending the mass; some look like they were dragged to it, some seem like they were just there because someone asked them to come, some just want to get done with it, but there are some who go there to genuinely make a connection with God.

I think that's why I sometimes envy Christian celebrations. I went to a Victory celebration once, and found it very peaceful. It doesn't hurt that the Christians I know are generally warm people so I always thought it was nice to join in on their celebrations.

The Feast

A friend has been inviting my wife and I to join their celebration of The Feast in Suntec City, but it never really worked out because we had games scheduled on Sundays, and I had work on Saturdays.

A couple of weeks ago, everything lined up and we were able to commit and attend.

From what I know, The Feast is a Catholic prayer community founded by Bo Sanchez. Initially, I honestly thought it was a Christian group, but that never deterred me or my wife from wanting to attend a celebration.

Attending The Feast was a welcome change. They shared personal experiences and sang songs I didn't know, and while they shared inspiring stories, their words didn't move me as much as it appeared to move others. However, there was a strange energy in the room that filled me. I don't usually subscribe to supernatural experiences, but I kid you not when I say that there was something in that room.

I believe that it was a direct effect of similarly driven individuals collectively making a leap of faith. The songs were just mere expressions, but everyone, at least in those moments, has offered everything to God. This did not happen because they needed something from God, but rather because they wanted to express their gratitude to Him by trusting Him completely.

I was pleasantly surprised; most of the people I know become religious when they need something from a higher being, or if they feel like they need to give back because of what they have done in the past. Others are too religious for me to relate with; they speak too much about their faith as if they have nothing more to do than to pray every second that I'm not talking to them. That Sunday, I was with regular people who got together to give thanks to God through songs.

I can't stress "togetherness" enough. Even if I am with my family in a Church, it sometimes feels like we're motivated by different things. My wife and I attend mass together, but despite so many people around, it never felt like we were praying "together" with other people in the parish. We prayed in unison because there were prompts, but we weren't all "together."

During The Feast, there was a feeling of serenity, warmth, and belongingness I have never experienced in a Catholic mass.

Later in the celebration, the speaker asked everyone to somewhat "share the love" this Christmas season and walk around to hug everyone in the room. I literally knew two people there, and another one by association because my wife worked with him. Still, I went around and hugged the most number of strangers in my entire life. I didn't feel forced, nor did I feel like the others were forced to hug a stranger like me. There were a lot of warm hugs that day.

After The Feast was a Sunday mass celebrated by one of the nicer priests in St. Theresa, Father Romeo. Having had The Feast prior made me more prepared to hear mass than I have ever been in my life.

Last Sunday, we went to attend regular mass again. The feeling of "community" wasn't there. I'm thinking maybe it would be different if I served, but then during the Feast, there was a sense of community even if I wasn't serving.

I'm not comparing because I am unmotivated as a Catholic. I just want to figure out what is missing in Catholic masses that there are less and less men who heed the call of priesthood, and why chapels are only full during holiday masses.

I think the parishes are lacking a sense of community despite their best efforts to build one. The diversity of the people in the community also makes it difficult to create one. I'm thankful to have learned about The Feast, because I think it emulates the energy felt in a Christian celebration and integrates it into a Catholic setting. I appreciate what they do, and I hope to join in on more celebrations with them.

Reflecting on Faith

Faith, I think, requires a certain surrender. It's not supposed to be taught and drilled into the minds of people, young or old. I don't think it's necessarily bad to teach the young about faith, but to impose one's perspective on them even when they reach the age where they can discern for themselves is almost like brainwashing, I feel like.

This experience helped me feel that certain surrender. It came at the most appropriate time. At the time I was with The Feast, I almost felt selfish because I was thinking about my personal struggles. Yes, I thank God for every day that I wake up, but during that time, I felt I didn't thank Him enough.

It's easy to say "Jesus, take the wheel," but it's another thing to let Him. After all, if you know how to drive, you tend to be uneasy whenever someone else drives for you, especially if it's your car. It's not easy to give up control of something you're responsible for; be it your life or your car.

That day with The Feast taught me that taking a leap of faith isn't just an expression, and the surrender that is felt is euphoric.

Surrendering control doesn't solve everything, but it helps give one a clear mind as to how one would deal with what is not yet.

I have my worries and uncertainties about the year to come, but because of the timely coincidence of us attending that particular celebration, I feel like everything's going to be alright.

Monday, November 21, 2016

...F.O.M.O....

fomo
noun, informal
"fear of missing out"

The fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great



Growing up, I liked to surround myself with same-aged friends. It is through them that I developed most of the interests I have even to this day. My parents would attest that I spend more time with friends than I do at home.

In my 30 years of existence, I became close friends with a lot of people, but most of them I barely even talk to anymore. Despite how friendly I can be, I only kept a handful of friends around.

When I decided to get married, I knew that it would mean leaving those friends behind. My then-girlfriend had been based in Singapore for a year when I proposed, and it would be difficult for her to move back to the Philippines if we considered the financial implications.

After getting married, I was jobless for a while before settling for a cashier job at a nice Filipino restaurant eight months in. I had no friends of my own, except our housemates who were my wife's college buddies. I built new relationships because that's what  I do, but none can replace the void left by my friends and family back home.

Sometime a couple of weeks back, a sudden sadness gripped me. I saw friends making plans on a whim to meet up, while I felt alone and uninteresting where I was. At first, I felt like it was a case of FOMO.

I talked to my wife about what I was going through, and right then and there, she booked me a flight back home to meet friends and family.

It was a quick trip but I was able to meet the people I wanted to be with; my immediate family, my cousin Jon and his dad, my college family with Kuya Ags, my brothers in Team Flow, and my ates Sof, Inna, Len, and Ernestine. As always, despite whatever I thought I was going through, I ended up just having fun with everyone.

A four-day trip with a lot happening, but this is the only event that was documented; my brothers and sister from other mothers.


Upon my return, my boss talked to me about what happened, and he offered some pieces of advice. Among those, he told me that I wasn't ready to be a dad yet because I had episodes like this. He said that when one gets married, one should be ready to give up everything. I begged to differ, but with alcohol and a live band playing, I decided against getting into a more reasonable debate.

Let me share the points I would have raised:

Passion Leads You to Where You Should Be

I have friends who ended up in professions I never imagined they would be, while there are some who ended up exactly where they should be. My wife was very fond of Coke as a product that even her persistent stomach ulcer can't keep her away from it. How she ended up with a job at Coke is beyond us, but we're thankful for it. Our wedding planner, Pam, has what we think is a successful events company that she runs. While we're already amazed that she was able to do that, I'm even more amazed that she opened up a second restaurant because she's passionate about cooking. My friend, Christian, is someone you could consider as a slacker in college. He didn't graduate with us, but begged his mom to let him study law. Four years and one bar exam later, he was a lawyer.

After reflecting, I realized I wasn't like them who were passionate about something in particular. However, if there's one thing that I liked that hasn't changed since when I was young, it's being a father. Even as a kid I didn't know what I wanted to do as a profession, but I was damn sure that I wanted to be a dad. I didn't set my heart on a single career path, and it's probably why I can't find the right job just yet.

I wasn't built to sulk, and no matter how you see this blog or my intentions for opening up to my wife, I was really just trying to find solutions. One of the solutions I came up with, with the help of my ates, was to try focusing on learning new things that could help me build a freelance career. That way, I could stay home for our kids but still be able to help my wife provide for our family. Hopefully, things begin to get better on this front by next year.

Life Goes On

My biggest fear in life is death. I fear not knowing what happens after death - to me or to the people around me. To a lesser extent, this same fear was what kept me hesitant from leaving the country altogether; what happens to my parents who would have none of their kids at home? What happens to my last boss when we were the only people doing sales for the company? What happens to my friends who only needed a single text message to see me when they need or want to?

And then I jumped and ended up where I am.

The short trip back home gave me a sense of euphoria with everyone I got together with. While I am still uncertain about what happens after death, I realized that while I am alive, I'll always have these people around me no matter how far away I am from them. See, despite months of not seeing each other, it's like we saw each other just the week before. I missed them all, and talking to all of them made me feel at ease. When we parted ways, I didn't feel like I was going to miss them; whether they know it or not, they made me feel like they will always be there when I need them, and they will be the same people I have come to appreciate no matter how much time I don't get to see them.

Life does go on, with or without us together. However, I'm happy that the friends I kept are the same ones who do want to keep me as well.

Complete Surrender

I concur with my boss when he told me that one has to be prepared to give up everything when one decides to get married. However,  I don't subscribe to his idea that one should actually give up everything.

I think that your significant other married you for the person that you are, not the person that you will be when you get married.

I've been married for about a year, but I've been in a relationship with my wife for the past 11 years, so I believe that I'm not much of a newbie in this relationship thing. I've also had my fair share of relationship experiences from people around me. I've seen what happens when you jump with your eyes closed because of complete trust only to find out when you open it that the one you trusted for decades is catching someone or something else.

It's romantic to hear that you would give your complete trust to your partner, but if something goes wrong (i.e. someone cheats, someone gets too busy with work, someone chooses friends over their partner, a partner dies, etc.), it would be difficult for one or both partners to pick up the pieces of themselves. Sure, life goes on, but why make it difficult for the other to move on by keeping him/her away from who he/she really is?

I believe that while couples can trust each other completely, they should never lose their individuality. Two may become one in marriage, but the reality is, there are two people. One can't be just the shadow of the other.

As I said, I made the leap of faith when I chose to leave home. However, I'm thankful to have a wife who constantly pushed me to keep my individuality despite my surrender.

No Regrets

Despite the loneliness I felt that led to my sudden trip back home,  I came back knowing that this is where I should be.

Truth be told, I wouldn't have imagined I'd be married in a different country five years ago. I hoped I would be married by this age, but I didn't know how it would work. My wife wanted to do a lot of things back then, while all I wanted was to have family. I hated that I couldn't get married to her sooner, but I needed her to figure things out before asking her to build a future together.

And she did.

I don't know if we'd be married now if she didn't have the courage to move away from home back in 2013. We would probably still be happy with friends and family around us back home. We would probably still be living with our parents. We would probably still be working with our beloved bosses back home (no sarcasm here, we honestly loved our bosses). But we wouldn't be married, with the way our finances were and how my mind worked because of how I was raised.

Heck, we probably wouldn't even be together because she'd be too tired to wait for me to ask her hand in marriage.

Where we are now, no matter how lonely it could get for me at times because of who I am, is where I think we should be. We live with friends, but we manage our own expenses. We don't inconvenience anybody if we go home late. We spend most of our time in our own room together because our friends can't call us for a sudden get together like they could back home. We get to plan our lives without asking for anyone else's blessing.

We've grown up together, and we're only growing more as adults because our decisions carry that much more weight now.

I miss home. I miss everyone. But this is where we need to be.

And when we get our own little one, I think everything will be well worth it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

...Houseband No More: Officially an OFW...

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a blog about being jobless in Singapore and how I'm dealing with it. The day after the said blog was posted, we looked for a place to hang out after a busy week for the working housemates. I looked for barbecue places (meat!) that wasn't too expensive and found Iskina Cebu, a restaurant that offers Cebu Lechon and other roasted meat. It's in Timbre+, a food park concept that isn't too far from our house.

We met the guys and learned that they were having a hard time looking for people with a Dependant's Pass who were willing to work as their cashier. I asked if I could be their guy, and a few discussions with the owner later during the night, I was kind of hired. Chris (the owner) asked me to come by the week after to start training, and I've been working ever since.

My new workplace :)

Pay's not so bad; something from zero is definitely a step up, isn't it?

If I knew writing a blog would lead me to a job, I should have done it earlier.

Life As a Cashier

Chris was asking for a long term commitment to his team, as he plans to expand to other places in Singapore. He said he's working on the structure of the company, and he'd need people to help out in sales eventually. Personally, I thought being a cashier would be a part time thing, but knowing that he has a vision for the company, I said I'd love to join his team especially with the opportunity for growth. Besides, it's a brand I can get behind, as it promotes the Filipino culture here in Singapore.

So far, it has been tiring, with work hours starting from 12 noon to 10 or 11 PM at night. However, it's been fun, especially since I get to meet a lot of people. Filipinos frequent our shop, but we don't fall short on having regular patrons of different races. For someone who enjoys meeting new people, this job has been rewarding in a sense. There are times when I need to spend time introducing our menu to new customers who have never heard of lechon before, and after they're done eating, they would take time to come back just to express how they enjoyed our food. It's the same rewarding experience I got with our food truck before. Even if I'm not cooking, I'm happy that the brand I represent is something I can proudly promote.

It's been a pleasant surprise to reconnect with old acquaintances through my job. Over the past two weeks, I've met a schoolmate from grade school and a junior in college from one of my favorite classes to visit when I was campaigning for the Student Council. I'm looking forward to meeting more friends randomly while I'm doing this.

Family and friends have all said the same thing to me when I told them about my new job; "mag-ingat ka sa cholesterol mo!"

Their concern is understandable, and I would like them all to know that I don't eat our food everyday. The guys told me to just feel free to grab my lunch from the kitchen, but I do try not to eat there everyday. Don't get me wrong, the food tastes great, but I don't want to get tired of eating roast pork. To do that, I need to practice self-control.

I also learned the struggles of the business that they have. I realized even more how business isn't just about having money. Chris, the businessman that he is, has kept his brand consistently good because he works in it himself. You probably wouldn't feel like he's the owner when you meet him, because you can easily relate to him and you'd see him either cooking, chopping, manning the cashier, or serving food from time to time. He has survived dealing with partners who would remit questionable sales returns, part-timers who would repeat receipts so that they can pocket some cash for their own, and a shortage of personnel. I think anyone who isn't as resilient as him could have just cashed out and sold his brand out. Instead, here he is, still working on his dream to grow his brand.

Trust is such an important factor in choosing the people who will work for you. I'm thankful that he has placed that trust in me, but I am sometimes left to wonder why do people have to cheat the hand that feeds them?

Surprise Documentary

Last Saturday, a film student came by to talk to Chris about shooting some clips for his documentary. Yesterday, they came by again, asking to interview the guys for the said project. I didn't want to get interviewed because I thought it was about the restaurant, but he said he thought focusing on the people would be more interesting. They asked some personal questions which I had no issues with, considering I wrote about it in my last blog. Let me share some of our discussions;

On Filipinos Being Happy

He cautiously gave his observation about Filipinos in Lucky Plaza on Sundays. He said that when he sees them happy and even dancing on their picnics, he can't help but wonder if it's all a facade; that six days in a week, they suffer the reality that they are away from their families.

Growing up with both my parents working, I was lucky enough to have had the privilege of living with house helpers to take care of us. Our house help usually came from provinces. While their provinces are a bus or a boat ride away, they were still away from their families. Back then, there were no social networks or cellphones to keep themselves updated with their families. They lived with us for years, and while I do think they miss their families, they weren't crying everyday because of it.

When my sister first had her baby, she looked for someone who would be able to help her take care of Khail. We met Ate Lorena, who was a distant relative of one of Ate's housemates. She was a nice lady who had kids of her own. She would often cry while sharing how she misses home, but she also smiles while doing so.

When natural tragedies like floods or whatnot hit the Philippines, it's not uncommon to see people full of smiles waving to cameras despite the carnage behind them.

I told him that I thought we are a generally happy people. I think the happiness that he sees in Lucky Plaza is not an act. I have no doubt that they miss their families, but technology has helped bridge distances between families and their providers who work overseas.

I think that despite the distance, they stay happy and motivated because they are able to contribute to their goal of providing for their families back home. While they are away from their own families taking care of another in a foreign country, they are giving their children a chance to build their own dreams. They do their jobs well, as I do mine, so that we can contribute to our respective goals. Focusing on the sadness of being away from home (or in my case, where I am professionally) will only affect our performance, and might hurt our capacity to help reach our goals.

On Career

He shared that his motivation in making this documentary about people is his realization that he will soon graduate and he doesn't know what will happen. He's pursuing his passion of making film, but he also understands the challenges of his industry. He also knows that he may need to find jobs that may not pay as much as soon as he graduates, but he doesn't know how he would be able to do it.

They asked me if I thought that being a cashier here is a step down from being an account manager back in the Philippines. I said I think career-wise, it is undoubtedly a step down. However, financially, I thought it wasn't as bad. At least I didn't have to spend my salary on airfare to visit my wife.

It's not lost to me that being a cashier isn't exactly a dream job for a "provider". It certainly wasn't in my mind when I was getting my degree or creating a network personally or professionally. I may be settling, but I'm not sulking. I focus on the positives of my job rather that dwell on what looks like an unpromising professional career.

I told the guy that it's important to work on a goal to keep oneself motivated to be happy or to go on. When I decided to get married, I knew the sacrifices I had to make, and I knew that my career was going to be one of them. While some may look down on the job I landed, I write about it with pride because I know that I am working towards a goal of starting a family, and what I earn will help me contribute in reaching that goal.

On Missing Home

As a student who's lived most his life in Singapore, he couldn't understand how we could leave home in favor of living in a foreign country. He asked if I missed home.

I definitely miss home. I miss family, friends, getting to drive, the familiarity, and much more. It's never easy to leave home, but growing up means making difficult decisions. By deciding to get married, I was ready to live my life with the person I wanted to grow old with. She didn't need to make me choose between home and her; I had as much power to make her choose the same. I made this decision by myself and for us.

He may be too young to understand, but I'm not saying I'm old enough to be an expert on this matter. From my perspective, though, I think that the idea of having to choose just one scares the shit out of people. Our culture has implanted in us a deep connection with our family. As we grow older, we extend that connection to our friends. When we meet the person we think we want to be with for the rest of our lives, it's important for us that he/she is accepted by the people around us. We don't need to totally let go of our family and friends, but once you make a decision to get married, the hierarchy of importance should change. The "family" in "family comes first" becomes your own family; your husband/wife and kids, instead of your parents and siblings.

I think those who are on the fence about getting married is scared of this inevitable decision. Personally, I didn't know I was ready to make such a decision. When I decided to do it, I just jumped to the unknown, with the only thing I'm certain of was that I trusted that the hand I held was the only hand I wanted to hold, no matter where we fell.