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[ NOte from NOel : IRONY ALERT : At least half of the things said here today are in the ironic sense or tongue-in-cheek, please react accordingly, though we are grateful still in advance for your attention, thanks! ]
Dear kabatch, classmates, schoolmates, kabayan, Maroonmates, officemates, Huttmates and friends :
AFTER NEARLY SIX YEARS of not sharing the same living space, Panganay and I recently became housemates rather abruptly, if not unceremoniously. The last time I was with him I was still an angry 40-year old unable to come to terms with the unrealized dreams and failures that come with impending middle age. After what seemed like an eternity later, I have now accepted the realities of things I must live with, successes out of my reach coupled with worlds still conquerable.
Among these conquerables is a renewed relationship with the firstborn, although the lines defining the stereotype of father + son are no longer distinct. Too much time has passed and too much faith lost, although lots of faith is there to be regained. The arrangement is by no means permanent, as you might have already assumed. Panganay’s outlook is too bohemian for him to stay in one place for more than a few idle moments in the hurly-burly schedule of twentysomethings, I myself am unsure as to how long I can stay in this Kiwi idyll of ferny glens and political correctness, given that my own immigration status is far from stable.
But for now we ( or at least one half of us for sure ) are happy to form an unlikely family, with of course wry-smiling esposa hermosa by my side.
Beyond the bonding, paternal / filial overcompensation and awkwardness in reestablishing familiarity, the congruences end. Because of the basic disconnect in goals, methodology and values, it’s hard for either of us to see the wisdom in what the other does.
For one thing, Crazy Good Son ( one of my nicknames for him, although he’s not aware of it ) is in a state of flux. An unexpected turn of events the last few years has gifted him with near-permanent resident status courtesy of his mom, and if God continues to smile on him and nothing goes awry, he will shortly become a citizen of the First World without so much as lifting a finger.
I am uncertain as to how conscious he is of his extreme good fortune, given the thousands of hopeful migrants ( not just Pinoys ) who gamble away life’s savings and the best years of their lives annually just for a chance to become permanent residents of NZ and Australia; that employment, career (and consequently income) opportunities improve probably about tenfold as one enters a job market with infinitely less competition and exponentially better work conditions; that the practically limitless possibilities to improve on one’s professional education all but assure him of a better life ahead; on a daily basis I would love to lecture him on his outrageous fortune, but his above-average intelligence tells him he has struck the job equivalent of marrying the provincial warlord’s daughter.
Instead, he spends much of his waiting time studying the odds, discovering exactly how to maximize his newfound luck with the least bit of effort (no surprises there) and qualifying his idleness from being “forced” (by the processing time of his documentation ) to being philosophical idleness, namely one “of choice.”
I remember one of our first conversations outside the Philippines when, aware of his considerable free time while waiting for the good news (of his Returning Resident’s Visa issuance, as the life-changing document is known ) I asked him if he wanted me to ask around for informal jobs/chores for him to perform, in case he needed something to do.
Nakakaawa naman ang mga unemployed Papa, ibigay mo na sa kanila. Kanila na mga mowing and cleaning, he counterpunched, half in jest but obviously not that crazy about joining the workforce in such a manner.
Right away, also semi-jokingly ( but semi-seriously too ) I noted two things in his response : His acute ( but rather misplaced ) concern for the unemployment situation here (at an all-time high) and his apparent ambivalence to doing menial jobs, which after all is work that is honorable in any society, no matter how sophisticated or stratified the latter.
Hindi naman po, and his combination of reasons were that it wouldn’t be a good look to take away jobs that should rightfully go to youth that grew up around the community, and that the dance crew he had joined was occupied with contests and busking for Christchurch earthquake victims. Who could argue with that ? I mused, seeing your son so creative and concerned with helping the unlucky ? So that was that, at least for a while.
I know what you’re thinking, ha? Sign up for work anywhere and anytime you can find it, apply first before finding out if you’re qualified, never hurts to try, and as long as you buy bread (or rice) with the wages, work is work is work. All the above proverbs true not only for you, me and our fellow countrymen, but for every newcomer off-the-boat, giddy to try his luck in the land of Promise.
As it was not my place to judge and in light of the abovementioned modified relationship vis-a-vis Senior and Junior, I held my tongue. Besides, his YouTube posts looked so cool, he might even be on the short list for Talentadong Pinoy, if ever there was a Kiwi version. Who was I to rain on his parade?
** ** ** ** **
Before long, my busybodying daddy instincts got the better of me once more.
You know, you could actually test the waters by just making initial inquiries about jobs you might like, without actually tipping your hand, just look at ALL those I.T. vacancies posted by all those ATTRACTIVE-sounding companies with their flashy logos and sexy compensation packages I said, broaching the topic over his favorite sinigang na hipon one night after work, a not-too-subtle nudge directing him toward an early-bird job hunt…
Was I naive or something? his eyebrows countered asap, although his retort was respectful enough. Una pong tatanungin nila Are you a permament resident, di naman ako pwedeng magsinungaling, maaalala nila sagot ko kahit sa initial interview, naisip ko na po yon he he, and again, that was that.
** ** ** ** **
I don’t have to tell you though that I’ve heard of countless Pinoys who’ve gone straight from the airport to pounding the CBD pavement (jetlag notwithstanding), bringing crisp CVs from home and ready to swipe away an earnest job interview, and a prospective job at that, from any faint-hearted, or hesitant Kiwi having second thoughts about a precious job candidacy. THIS was the attitude I thought that Panganay needed to arm himself with, weeks away from joining the rat race for a Jay-Oh-Bee.
Left unsaid, in all my second-guessing about his jobsearch aversion, was the lack of hunger : he wasn’t, like me ( or millions of other job hopefuls ), a family man desperate for a family income, he wasn’t shouldering a rent budget with equally desperate job candidates, had no debts to pay, and no one to send money home to. There was no pressure on him to find work urgently. In short, he wasn’t the typical new OFW. It wasn’t his fault, but he was undermotivated to prove himself as one of the planet’s pre-eminent heat-seeking missiles when it came to work, the Pinoy OFW.
Oh for sure he had it in him to find a great job, having better-than-average smarts, the requisite social skills, more than capable of selling the concept of here I am and this is what I can do, hiring me is the best idea you’ll come up with this week and maybe next.
But (deep sigh) until he woke up from his OMG-I’ve-actually-gotten-here reverie, he wasn’t going to be challenged, mentally or physically, anytime soon.
** ** ** ** **
What I’d suspected, that he was in no real hurry to join the workforce (except on his own narrow terms), came into sharp relief a few days ago, when I told him that a friend mentioned that a gig might be available cleaning dishes and disinfecting lavatories.
He bristled at the idea of performing such tasks, asking if he could instead wait on tables or just take orders, and mentioned in passing that he preferred cafes over eating places, because the dishes would be easier to clean.
Look anak, you have to start somewhere, and you could use it as an immersion experience, seeing how it is to work without actually being formally engaged. And wouldn’t you like to feel how it is to work for money you’re spending? I told him, careful not to offend and using such as a teachable moment.
What he answered was, to say the least, a rude awakening for me.
Hindi ako nag-aral Pa para gawin yung job na ganyan, kahit naman siguro ikaw na nakatapos ng pag-aaral pagiisipan nyo nang mabuti bago tanggapin ang kahit na anong work. Di po ako namimili (pero ganun na nga diba?) pero maghahanap muna ako ng iba.
And with that, I realized how wide the chasm was between his job attitudes and mine.
** ** ** ** **
In seaching for a way to end this cautionary tale, a DVD I saw, Wall Street the sequel came to mind. The aging but still debonair Michael Douglas tells Shia LeBouf in a subway scene that the most important asset these days is not businesses, land or property, but time. Anyone who has the luxury of time can do whatever he/she wants, and the convenience of doubling back to correct one’s mistakes.
In my humble view, the greatest asset that not just Panganay but many people of his age group possess is time, although I hope he does not, in his quest to achieve job perfection, squander too much of his precious asset.
Thanks for reading !