Twenty years ago this week, a young man, in his mid-twenties embark on a journey that will change him and his outlook in life. Armed with knowledge in engineering and computers, he went to a country whose environment, people and culture are completely different from his own. Only one thing prompted him to go; to save enough money to buy a computer. I know, a very shallow reason compared to what motivates other OFW’s to leave their country and love ones behind. But it’s enough for this fool of a young man. Besides it’s a job, man, it’s a job.
When the aircraft touched down, the hot 41 degree wind of a typical July evening snaps him off his day dreaming and reality sets in. It’s like being shoved out a huge oven. He restrained the urge to run back inside, in the comfort of the air-conditioned plane. His no quitter. He rationalizes; it’s just a job, man, only a job.
The Satellite Earth Station site was a self-sustaining structure in the middle of nowhere. His assignment was to maintain 3 power generators that supplies electricity to a small Domestic Satellite station, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Besides that, his job includes keeping the generator shed clean and tidy. It means mopping the floor of oil sleek and washing “standby” generators to look like it was just bought yesterday. A messy job, if you ask him, but he consoles himself, thinking, his batch mate and a very good friend is up there on the base of a 35 meter diameter disk antenna doing the same thing he does but in a different manner. Five years of studies in UST to become an ECE and he scrapes pigeon shit off station roofs. But it’s part of the job, man, just part of the job.
Six months passed before he saved enough money to buy a computer. It’s the latest top of the line model. A 286x, 22MHz speed processor, a 16 color video card, a VGA monitor, 256kb of RAM and a whooping 40Mb of hard disk. After work, he spent his time tinkling his computer. He fine tunes it, searching every available upper-memory to cramped-in his drivers to save precious base memory to run programs bigger than 64kb. Enough memory to play his favorite game “Wolfenstein”, hone his typing skill to his personal best of 60 wpm and learn a new language called “C”. That computer helps him a lot. It shielded him from loneliness... homesickness, man, homesickness.
His luck changes after a year. The project’s computer programmer went home and never came back. They said he migrated to UK along with his family, leaving the Project Manager with a headache. Its end of the year and not even a single page of inventory report were printed, an important document that has to be submitted to the Ministry. At first, the German PM won’t believe what the Station Engineer told him about this Filipino guy who knows computer. Nobody blames him. Who would believe that a guy holding a mop and dressed in a dirty over-all, have knowledge of computer? Not to mention, the capability to manipulate a database in generating an inventory report of the entire project? But desperate people do desperate things. He let the “mop guy” handle the system. After one week, he got his precious report and the “mop guy” got a hefty bonus. It was fun, man, it was fun.
When the project contract ended, his boss wrote a very generous recommendation letter and delivered it personally to the head of a newly formed project. He was immediately hired as a programmer and became a pioneer of that project. For him, it’s like a game, man, just a game and his still playing.