Saturday, September 27, 2008

Image and Respect

Never dress down for the poor. They won't respect you for it. They want their First Lady to look like a million dollars. - Imelda Marcos

Looking around while my wife and daughter were trying out some clothes in a department store, an Arab lady approached me and asked the price of an item she was holding. I smiled and told her “I don’t work here”.

I ask myself, why of all people she came to me and the mirror at the shop gave me the answer. I was wearing a white polo shirt, same as the store employees are wearing. The only difference is the word “SALE” at the back of their shirt in bright red color. I just shake my head and smiled at the similarity.

When I told my wife about the incident, instead of being amused, she went ballistic. “Yan kasi, kung magbihis ka para kang hindi engineer, mas maporma pa ang tea-boy nyo sa opisina!” Of course she’s exaggerating, lamang naman ako ng tatlong paligo sa tea-boy namin. I don’t know how an engineer should dress up. Perhaps a “hard hat” will identify me as one, but I’ll look silly wearing it in the mall.

I wear polo and slack at the office. I like my clothes loose and comfortable and I hate ties. In my opinion it has no practical function except as an ornament. Besides, my job doesn’t require me to enter-act with clients, so there’s no need for me to be very presentable. My company didn’t hire me for my outside appearance, their more interested what’s inside my head. If it’s “looks” their looking for, I wouldn’t be in front of the computer but in front of the camera, half naked and holding a Paco Ranne.

To some, image is important. They equate it with dignity and respect. You see them at business establishments in their “corporate look”, in malls in their signature (or imitation) shirt and“branded” pants. If image is essential, you don’t have to don expensive clothes. A neat, clean appearance and a “cultured” speech would do the job. It’s the way you hold yourself that earns respect. It comes naturally, dictated by how you were raised and educated. But then again I might be wrong if you cite Kris Aquino as an example.

Projecting a “good” image is for politicians and celebrities. They want people to believe on something unreal or artificial. It’s not something for us, ordinary folks, to emulate. For me, I prefer individuals who are WYSIWYG.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Two Votes for Philippine Blog Awards Two

Two of my blog friends were nominated by the Philippine Blog Awards 2, namely Abou’s Basta and Ever’s Pamatay Homesick. Let’s put two of our own into that prestigious awards. I will appreciate it very much if you guys vote for these two crazy but talented bloggers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Discrimination, Pinoy’s Attitude Towards Pinoy

Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture. - Charlotte Bunch

I have my share of discrimination. It was while queuing in an airlines travel office to get a transaction number. I was next in line when the guy handling the machine gave the number to a western looking gentleman behind me. The gentleman took it and hand it to me at the same time told the guy “His in front, he should get it first”. I didn’t react anymore because it’s obvious the guy was embarrassed. Like some pinoys, locals are also enamored and awed with anything western and at the same time look down on other Asians nationalities. I just considered and accepted this incident as part of working in a country whose culture is completely different from ours. What I can’t stomach is when the bashing comes from your own people as what Batjay and Nebz experienced.

Their posts made me contemplate where we got that repulsive attitude. I’ve read a book about evil being genetic in nature. It also mentioned genes discriminate and eliminate inferior design in order for species to survive. And that behavior is passed on to the specie itself. If theres truth to that hypothesis, are the likes of Malu Fernandez genetically superior than to the rest of us? I’ve seen her picture and I beg to differ.

Rizal’s “Noli” is full of these ugly traits. Perhaps we inherit it from the Spaniard's aristocratic ways. But then again we have nobility before the conquistadores reached our shores and “alipin” already exist long before the peasant farmers are beholden to the landowners.

Stereotyping is another form of discrimination. We make fun of people from other regions like the “Redneck” and “Yo Mama” jokes in the states. In Luzon, if you’re from the far north, you’re stingy, if from the south, you’re sexually promiscuous. Kapampangans are arrogant and we laugh at how Panggasinenses speaks English. Same as in the Visayas; Cebuanos think they are superior, Negrenses are “hambog”, Samarinios are trouble makers, Boholanos are the butt of every visayan jokes and we in Panay flies when the full moon is up.

It exists in our socio-economic strata. The “old money” looked down on the nouveau rich, and both disapproved of people who arrive to wealth via matrimony. Some attached the adjective “upper” to emphasize they are a notch higher than the ordinary middle class. And the poor equate their status by how many members there are in their family. Students coming from an exclusive school has more preference in prestigious universities than the one from the provinces, regardless of academic standing. A “Dr.”, an “Atty.” or an "Engr." in front of your name somehow impress a fickle minded individual. While a "Gen.", a "Col." or a mere "SPO1" connotes fear.

I’ve seen some people in the medical field who don’t like to mingle with our kabayans working in constructions. I’ve seen nurses in hospitals belittle fellow nurses who work on clinics. I’ve seen OFWs working in western countries looked down to those working in the Middle East and it goes on and on.

I still don’t have an answer to my question, and the “whys” just keep pilling up. All I know for sure; our culture sucks, big time!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fasting Fever

It's clearly more important to treat one's fellow man well than to be always praying and fasting and touching one's head to a prayer mat. - Naguib Mahfouz

This Hegira month is the time for fasting, an annual exercise where devotees are required to refrain from sex, eating during the day and consume food moderately (preferably in liquid form) in the evening. Medically speaking, it was proven that this practice has some benefits. It removes anti-toxins and revitalizes the body’s internal organ function, not to mention, “rejuvenate the soul”.

Although I don’t fast, I can feel its presence. Its effect is highly contagious; like seeing somebody yawn and, involuntarily, you find yourself doing the same. As if life shifted into low gear: you see everything in “slow-motion”.

Where I am, I see people coming to work at around 10 am. Some bleary eyed, others in a foul mood and still a few could hardly raised their foot to take the next step as they climb up the stairs. All around, they slumped in chairs, immobile, nodding their heads back and forth like sickly fowls. The only indication they are still alive are the hand and finger movement when operating the mouse as they surf the net.

Pacing is reduced that I have to cope up by slowing down as well. There’s no need to hurry things up to finish what ever I’m doing if only to face a blank wall along the way. What’s the rush if the guy I’m supposed to coordinate with is still halfway, or worst haven’t started yet, all because of fasting. What better excuse do you have when you want to skip work?

What amazes me is this phenomenon I observed as the sun sets, as if dusk suddenly awakens dormant energy that so much hustle and bustle is happening (mostly buying sustenance) after dark. One could see queues in bakeries, supermarkets and restaurants. But real activity starts at 9 pm, the same time the malls open. For some, this goes on until the malls closed at 1 am, for others, until before the break of dawn. At sunrise they revert back into a zombie-like trance and the cycle is complete.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Educating Bea (Part II)

The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important - and then get out of their way while they do it. - Jack Welch

When I came home, a couple of days ago, I caught my wife and daughter huddled in one corner. My daughter looked at me and I saw her eyes pleading. But my wife won’t have any of it. She insisted that Bea practiced writing the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the vowels in capital and lower case. We taught Bea her ABC’s, 123’s, colors and shapes through songs and games and she retains everything because she learned in a fun way. That’s why I asked why all of a sudden Mom was strict with Bea’s studies. I didn’t expect her reply when she said “Your daughter is behind in her class”.

She wants Bea to learn how to read and write by the end of the school year just like that kid in Prep 1. The kid she was talking about is good academically but wanting when it comes to emotional intelligence. I once saw her quietly setting in one corner, looking at the ceiling and don’t mingle with her classmates. In my observation, I think she doesn’t know how to inter-act with her peers. I don’t want my daughter to be like her. Nursery class is supposed to be fun and games. Not only that, we enrolled our daughter so she’ll be exposed to people and kids her age. We’re a bit worried because she knew and feel comfortable to only two persons, me and my wife.

When my wife showed me her report card, I saw the Teacher’s Evaluation consist of three blue circles and the rest are red circle. Blue means “Very Good” and red “Excellent”. I looked up her grades and all her subjects are 90 except for Filipino which was 89. I thought that’s not bad, in fact that’s very good, considering Bea’s only 3 and half years old and the youngest in her class. But my wife wasn’t satisfied. She blurted “She didn’t make it to the Top 5!”

So, this is what this is all about. It all comes down to prestige, the honor of being mentioned and recognized as one of the 5 brightest students in your class. You see, my daughter’s school awards students who excels academically four times in one school year. That means there’s a ceremony after every periodic evaluation to honor the top 5 students at each level. This does not only pit students to outdo one another but also make parents to put pressure on their kids. Since the school encourages parents to attend each ritual, there is always this unhealthy tendency for the eyes to observe who made it and who didn’t and the tongue to wag questions or insinuate stories.

I don’t blame the students or the parents if they acted in such manner; they are the victims here therefore susceptible to human foibles. If I start pointing fingers, it would be in the direction of the School Administrators. Their fond of inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity. It does not only disrupt harmonious balance, it’s also psychotic.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What’s In a Title?

We don't have titles on our business cards. No one really gets any special treatment. No one gets a corner office to put pictures of their family and their dog in. - Jay Chiat

The British are the only European people I know who likes to put title before or after their names. From “Sir” to those who are knighted to the “nth-in-line-to-the-throne” for the royal bench-warmers. At least this passion is confined to their royalties.

Unlike here, you can see it everywhere. It’s announced in front of government buildings, in big bold letters, to connote the importance of that particular branch. Names like “General Directorate of …” and “Supreme Presidency for …” are just few of the more modest titles.

I don’t mind if an HRH is in front of a guy’s name. His royalty, that’s his official title. But commoners too like to have these vanity plates. They want to be addressed as “Doctor” so-and-so if he has a PhD from What-ever University and “Muhandes” (Engineer) if a graduate from Fly-by-night Institute of Technology. Since there are a lot of “engineers” in our project, one particular guy won’t respond if called unless you call him Besh Muhandes (top or head engineer).

South Asians are another title-obsessed group. I once knew a guy who is well liked by the man-at-the-top that he was never terminated, just transferred from one project to another. It’s not because he does amazing job, his just a good butt-kisser. The last assignment he landed to doesn’t have a title so he created his own. He called his position “Head of Logistics”. His responsible for buying all the supplies the project needs.

In terms of tenure, I’m the most senior among the employees of this project. My position or title is “Programmer”; as plain as bread without butter. The only thing that sets me apart from other programmers is that I can browbeat the Head of the Computer Department or the Project Manager if he does something stupid.