Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Expert Talks on Unemployment

The way people discuss the topic unemployment holds just as much appeal as discussing the topic of some airborne virus threatening to wipe out all of humanity.

I don't blame all the naysayers of the concept of unemployment, though. Many horror stories are attached to it, some of them even ending with the loss of lives.

However, I have yet to encounter a topic discussing the advantages unemployment can bring to one's life.

Yes, dear readers, there actually is something positive that comes out of unemployment, and this blog will thoroughly enumerate the many plus factors that come with being blissfully unemployed.


I have just recently returned to unemployment status last week, inevitably joining the list of jobless Filipinos. It just didn't work out with the public relations agency with whom I was connected. While instinct tells me to blame everything on my last employer, reason dictates that I am just not really designed for PR work. Lord knows though that I tried. However, after four months of trying, I just came to the conclusion that I couldn't see myself 10 years from now getting parking privileges for clients or sitting through client presentations and listening to all the lying, pretension, and hypocrisy that go on in these sessions.


This is, of course, not the first time that I was unemployed. Bing jobless and a single mother is quite an awful combination, and if I'm going to write about my own horror stories on being in such a situation, I'll have enough material for a trashy novel.

However, it was during these most trying circumstances where I came upon several life-changing lessons.


Thinking on one's feet. During the early days of my professional life, I had that advantage of resigning from a job I didn't like even without any fallback options -- and I even enjoyed the extended vacation. Life was much easier then: my dad was still in government service and there wasn't much to spend for anyway. Things became more complicated when I had a baby, got married, and my dad retired (Yes, in that order). Add to that the onset of the Asian financial crisis brought about by the fall of the Thai baht in 1999.That was the first time I actually felt the full brunt of being jobless.

Getting a new job was very difficult that time, especially since I have been languishing in media work for so long. Job openings in the career I was used to were non-existent, and we were running out of money fast, what with the baby and all. For the first time in my life, I had to make a life-changing choice for my family. Against all odds, I decided to uproot my family from Manila to my mother's province in Leyte. This eventually took a toll on my marriage, but it was a spur-of-the-moment decision that I will never ever regret making.


Trying new things. I took several stumbles after making that decision to move to Leyte. This was because I had to reorient myself with alternate means of employment. Suddenly, my experience and skills in the print medium were relegated to the background and I found myself becoming a deejay, a gender consultant, a voice teacher, and a college instructor while in Leyte. It was quite amusing for me to know that there were other facets to my capabilities that I didn't know I had. These wouldn't have surfaced if I remained in my comfort zone as a media practitioner in Manila.


Coping with disappointment. If I am going to enumerate the number of times I cried over disappointments in my career, I could fill a small bucket.

Probably the biggest disappointment I encountered in my career was not being able to continue my work in the academe. I found my trued calling in UP Tacloban, and I could actually picture myself 10 years into the future doing the same thing and not getting tired of it. For once, I felt that I was excelling in my career choice -- and the high evaluation scores I was getting from my students reinforced that thought.

Unfortunately, several individuals in UP Tacloban felt that I had to be "disposed," together with other junior faculty members who showed potential.

That experience, utterly heartbreaking as it was, taught me to move and and hope for even better things to come. I became content with the idea that I was considered too much of a threat by the powers-that-be in UP Tacloban that my existence had to be nipped in the bud.

Another advantage I got from being "sacked" from UP Tacloban was the unconditional friendship and fierce loyalty I found from a group of people who -- despite their accomplishments and illustrious track records -- treated me as one of their own. They are the most-revered senior faculty members of the UP Tacloban Humanities Division, namely Dr. Vic Sugbo, Prof. Merlie Alunan, Prof. Joycie Alegre, and Prof. Zenia Mariveles.


Jumping into the pool. It is said that jumping straight into a pool, not knowing first if it's filled with water or not, is quite foolhardy. While there is logic behind such reasoning, I find that blind pool-jumping can cause quite a rush.

And I am only too happy that I'm the kind who blindly jumps into pools because if I wasn't, I wouldn't have been able to experience the feeling of independence which I got when I decided to take a job in Cebu.

Risk-taking does have its merits, but it should also be in the form of calculated risks. This is what I took upon transferring to Cebu and taking that job as a copywriter for this BPO firm. This is the same principle that guided me when I transferred back to Manila. I would have been tied down to my comfort zones if I didn't do so.


Say a little prayer. Throughout all the highs and lows of my career life, I became a staunch advocate of the power of prayer. During those low moments when I felt that I just kept hitting the proverbial brick wall, I would just step aside, close my eyes, and murmur this prayer: "Father, into Your hands, I commend my spirit." It is sort of a surrender hat I declare to my Creator after doing what had to be done with disappointing results. Sometimes, one has to simply stand aside and just let things go on their natural course. More often than not, something g good comes out of it -- and I attribute this to a divine power, God's will, if you want to call it by a name.

I've seen this divine power at work during those moments of my unemployment when I had very little money to spare and there was still the obligation to provide food on the table. Just when I felt that I already hit rock-bottom, an opportunity suddenly presented itself to me. That unseen but omnipresent divine hand would help me out of my crises just when I ran out of aces up my sleeve, and this reinforced my faith in the existence of my Creator.

His will be done, as it is said.


Balancing the budget. Probably the biggest challenge one encounters upon the loss of his/her job is the eventual loss of a salary for the family upkeep. We usually go to work to earn money not only for ourselves but also for our family's survival. So what happens to the family when there's no more money to expect?

First, I learned the fine art of budgeting whatever money I had left. I remember a time just before we transferred to Leyte in 1999 when I could extend the purchasing power of my P100 bill for an entire week. I must admit though that I still haven't mastered this art yet. So what did I do when my budgeting skills faltered?

I moved on to the second procedure: I swallowed my pride and loaned money. This is a very difficult procedure for me because I'm not used to loaning money, but when I'm already being pushed to the wall, this is my only recourse. And I am only so grateful that I have friends and relatives who would lend me money with no additional interest. The moment I get a job, I make it a point to pay these people for their generosity. Right now, I still have several loans that need to be paid in full, but at least I'm getting there.

To minimize the dependence on loans, I would go on to the third procedure: come up with income-generating activities. So far the most successful one I ever had was holding lessons on voice and stage performance in my town in Leyte. It was physically taxing because I had to sing and dance with my young wards, but in the end it was worth it.


Being in touch with one's true self. Being unemployed also allowed me to introspect. Where did I go wrong with my last job, what could I do to prevent such a disaster next time...these were primarily what came into my mind during these situations of joblessness. Admittedly, there would be times when I got depressed with the status quo that I would sometimes get all broody with family members. However, I would eventually snap out of it and prepare my battle plan to beat this spectre of unemployment. I guess it's quite normal to get depressed, but I also realized that wallowing in self-pity is not going to solve anything.

I managed to learn a little more about myself during these moments of introspection, So far, these are what I gathered:

- I stink at jobs related to media. It is of no wonder that I don't stay too long in a media-related job.

- I am good at jobs that allow me to take control and improvise. The moment my job (or my bosses) begin to control me, I act like a caged animal whose instinct is to get out.

- I value dignity more than money. I will eventually get out of a job that will give me a higher salary but will ask for my soul in return.

- I will never stand up for injustices and broken promises in the workplace. This is where my idealism comes into play. I will stand up for what I believe is true and just.

- I will stay in a job that will not allow me to grow but will also create a positive impact on others beyond my office.

- I will stay in a job that will keep on stimulating my brain. The moment my work becomes rote/too stupid/too demeaning, that's bye-bye time for me.

I dunno if there is such a job that would allow me to place a check mark on all the above-mentioned items but so far, my work in UP Tacloban came closest. Nonetheless, I am still optimistic that I will finally stumble on that dream job very soon.


To conclude, I believe that unemployment is a challenge meant to be appreciated. It teaches people to become stronger individuals than they were before. It also allows for more creativity, ingenuity, and a little but of tapang ng apog. Furthermore, unemployment gives one the opportunity to see the Creator's hand in motion,and it is the time when one can find his/her trues friends and filter them from the fair-weather ones. It is also the most ideal test of family unity. (That's what caused my ex-husband to "fall off the family wagon," so to say.)

So with the growing spectre of unemployment looming over more and more Filipinos these days, it is important to never lose hope. It is this flickering fire of hope that distinguishes our race from others despite the many calamities -- natural or man-made -- that have befallen us. It is also unwavering hope that can raise us out of the doldrums of unemployment.

Take it from an expert.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Looking forward to the “More Final Set”

Gagawin ko ang lahat pati ang thesis mo

Wag mo lang ipagkait ang hinahanap ko

Sagutin mo lang ako aking sinta’y walang humpay na ligaya…

--Ligaya, Eraserheads

Poetic? Not exactly. But cuts right to the heart? Definitely.

It is this kind of music that brought the Eraserheads to OPM rock music stardom. It is also this kind of music that ushered the advent of a generation who clearly expressed their truest emotions: angst, happiness, frustration, anxiety, and the good ol’ “kilig” factor.

And I’m so glad to have been able to hear that kind of music one more time – live.


The Mall of Asia concert area was a-bustle with activity last March 7 due to the biggest – and reputedly the last – reunion concert of the Eraserheads entitled “Eraserheads: the Final Set.” While I did have my heart set on watching the “take two” concert of this group (I guess we all know what happened to vocalist Ely Buendia the last time), I was apprehensive at first. I was thinking: I may end up as the oldest person in the concert venue.

But when my former student and I finally made it to the MOA concert grounds, I was pleasantly surprised by the hodgepodge of people all eager to watch this rare event. Yes, there were a lot of teenagers there, but there were also a lot of thirty-somethings mingling with the younger ones.

Sa bagay, I shouldn’t be surprised: these members of the Eraserheads are also thirty-somethings themselves. It only goes to show that their music didn’t stop at touching the hearts of my generation but went on to influence the next ones as well.


Before the performance began, organizers of the event showed a colorful documentary of the musical journey taken by the E-heads from their humble beginnings as a bunch of kids cutting their classes at the UP College of Mass Comm just to engross themselves in their band’s endeavors, to their pinnacle of victory when they won in the 1999 MTV Viewers’ Choice Awards for the Best Asian Rock Group. Interspersed with actual footages of gigs they have performed in were interviews with the guys themselves. I kinda cringed at the strange and sometimes stupid answers the guys gave, thank God for Buddy Zabala (bass guitarist) who managed to redeem the group’s lack of eloquence with his straightforward and – like I said, thank God – sensible replies.

However, the Eraserheads were never really known for flowery speeches – they were known for their unique and edgy OPM sound. And that was what they proved when they finally came onstage to wow the 100,000-strong sea of fans who came together at the MOA to see them performing again.


The E-heads mixed their old and new songs during their concert, and some of their older tunes were given a different twist. Take Marcus Adoro’s reggae rendition of the pop-sounding “Wag Mo nang Itanong sa Akin” which I found to be quite appealing. Ely Buendia also rendered heart-rending versions of the “doo-be-doo-be-doo” song Kailan and the whimsical Torpedo. Raymund Marasigan meanwhile was consistently in rock mode (Our best description: baga hin nakatigol hin katol [like he got high on mosquito coil]) when he sang his three- or four-note ditties from the Circus album while jumping around like a crazed animal onstage. (Peace, Raymund! Hehehe) The audience was chanting for Buddy to do a solo number, but he simply left his other bandmates to do the chore.

Considering the big stage and the even bigger concert venue, the Eraserheads (except for Raymund) didn’t bother to explore the stage and elicit audience reaction. This could be the result of two factors: first, why would they want to move around to get the audience screaming when their music alone can do the trick? And second, I have a feeling that they were also fearful of a repeat of what happened to Ely Buendia the last time. Thus, they remained stuck to their positions almost the entire time to minimize the physical stress on their lead vocalist. There is actually still a third factor, and I should know about this since I was in the UP College of Mass Comm at the same time that they were biding their time there: these guys are getting old like me.

The Eraserheads did a musical tribute to their recently-departed friend and fellow musician, master rapper Francis Magalona, by first singing strains from his popular song, Kaleidoscope World. Then they proceeded to perform the song, Superproxy which was said to be the result of a collaboration between the late rap artist and the group. My former student further revealed that had he not succumbed to his leukemia, Francis was set to do a surprise number with the E-heads that night by rapping the last part of the said song. In lieu of the late rapper’s departure, Ely did a slower, sung version of the part slated for Francis. Afterwards, he shouted, “Mabuhay ka (Long live), Francis Magalona!” Taking the irony too seriously, some wiseguys near us said, “Wag naman…kakamatay pa lang nga e…(No…the man just died…)”

I was crossing my fingers that the group would sing Toyang, Huling El Bimbo, and Alapaap during this concert, and I was not disappointed. In fact, Huling El Bimbo was their “last” song before their encore number wherein Ely attempted to do a piano-on-fire stunt. Unfortunately, the winds at the concert area were just too strong to keep a decent fire and Ely had to settle for banging at the piano, pushing it down, and eventually stomping on it. So much for drama.

If only I wasn’t so afraid that my student and I might have a difficult time going home, we may have stayed for the E-heads’ encore. I read in the newspaper that they sang three more songs that really got the audience wild. But by the time the throngs of people got their fill of these guys’ music, my student and I were already well-planted inside an FX taxi going home.


I must admit: I am more of a Side A fan than an Eraserheads fan, primarily because I used to see these guys perform almost every UP Fair in UP Diliman’s Sunken Garden. Moreso because Raymond Marasigan was an old seatmate from my Communication Theories class who loved to borrow my notes just before an exam. (And I was the stupid sap who permitted him to do so. One simply had to admire this guy’s propensity for coming to class not even armed with a ballpen or scratch paper.) I guess too much exposure to these fellow Iskos made me a little less starstruck then. However, that didn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate their music. In fact, I was in the middle of my own thesis when Ligaya and its line about doing a thesis (see song lyrics above) became a true-blue hit. They also sang about hanging out in Kalayaan (the freshman dorm in UP Diliman), eating in CASAA (every student who has at one time or another graced the halls of UP Diliman’s Arts and Sciences Building has also eaten in CASAA), and going to Tandang Sora. These were typical Iskolar ng Bayan escapades that they sang about especially in their debut album, Electromagnetic Pop, and almost everyone from my generation related to their music – whether they were from UP or not.

About 17 years later, the Eraserheads have since disbanded and formed bands of their own – but the fact remains that as a team, they have proven themselves worthy of the title, OPM Pop Rock Icons. Their music will still be very much around for the next years to come, and even when these guys reach their 40s in a few more years, the sound they have created will bring back memories of a time when life was still filled with the mundane complexities of first love, barely getting by at school, crushes, friendship, and other simpler pleasures/challenges.

I honestly believe that there will still be a Part Three – if you are going to count the unfinished one that ended with Ely being rushed to the hospital – of the Eraserheads reunion concert, considering the unprecedented success of this Final Set. They just have to: the clamor is still too great. And this time, I hope they also go to the major cities down South because at this very moment, Visayas and Mindanao E-heads fans are gnashing their teeth in envy over their non-ability to watch the March 7 Manila concert.

Then probably they can name their concert, “Eraserheads: the more Final Set.”