[Note : Miracles still happen! Let’s do all we can and agitate our national officials not to let up in appealing for clemency or mercy for kabayan Mary Jane Veloso, who is now on Indonesia’s death row for a crime she may not have committed. ]
TRUE to some of our kabayan’s regionalistic nature, my first and only Filipino colleague at work was equally as proud of his hometown (and home province) as he was/is of his country, because he introduced himself to our supervisor as such. Having known this beforehand, I naughtily prepared my greeting to him as he entered the work area for the first time late last year.
Naimbag nga bigat, I shouted over the din of conveyors and machinery.
Even with all those ambient decibels drowning everything out, I could hear his wide-eyed response.
Ilokano ka rin????
I smiled and nodded to the negative, but it was enough of a friendly greeting to him.
Thus was how I met and encountered for the first time my Filipino / Ilokano workmate, who I’ll just call Kabsat (brother) because I think the nickname has rather grown on him.
I had no idea of how his final interview with the site manager went, but with his engineering degree, work experience and engaging manner, it was more than enough for him to get hired. I don’t know if the fact that there was already a Filipino on site (me) helped, or maybe it didn’t. Unsurprisingly it was up to little old me to familiarize him and show him the ropes, as we would be doing the same work throughout all our shifts.
The first odd thing that I noticed about Kabsat was that everytime I told him how something ran and how to change the setting of the latter, he would not say anything immediately, as a response or to tell me that he understood. Instead, he would look at the machine, give it the once-over and see how the flow (of product) in and out of such machine took place. Only then would he register to me his reactions, on how well he understood me (or not).
Later he told me he was trying to assess the relationship of each machine to the rest of the system, something I hadn’t thought of doing till then. He said that part of his training was to study each machine in relation to the whole. as it made for easier understanding of the whole process.
I just nodded, but inside I was already scratching my head. This guy is different from you and me, I shouted mentally to no one.
***** ***** *****
Next thing I noticed was that Kabsat always paid attention to the systems in place, instead of wondering how things worked. He realized not long after his orientation in our workplace, that because of unsynchronized projects that were started by different managers in previous years, there was both a mechanical and pneumatic system in place to transport product throughout the site.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that with his training and aptitude, Kabsat would soon overtake me in skills and knowledge about work, and I was honest enough to tell him this.
Ever the modest Ilokano, he denied it, telling me instead that his academic background and experience in the manufacturing industry made it easy for him to be comfortable in our milieu. That, and his stories about his life in Baguio (St Louis University), a site manager in a Samsung contractor in the Cavite Export Processing Zone and his recent migrant adventures made us fast friends at work.
And even if all the above hadn’t happened, we would still have gotten along, because indeed, he has been my first and only kabayan in my job. Hardworking, easy to get along with, humble, and most of all, efficient, Kabsat has not only proven worthy of his job, he has made me and future Filipinos in our workplace look good. I could not ask for anything more.
Perhaps you’re wondering Precious Reader why, after all this time, I’ve only told you about Kabsat now and not sooner.
I’ll tell you why. Notwithstanding the ease with which Kabsat learned how to do our job, he was not gonna stay long with me. He had too much experience, too many skills and managed people too well to just stay in the rank and file of a company, no matter how good that company was.
That, and the fact that his wife was the principal applicant for permanent residency, meant that I wasn’t gonna have a kabayan at work for long. His wife, a specialist nurse, was headed for Auckland, and of course that’s where he was headed too. I was happy for them, and I was happy we shared some good times at work.
For a while I was getting used to having a kabayan at work, but it was not meant to be. I just to content myself with knowing that once upon a time, there was a slice of Manila in working-class Wellington.
Agyamanak for everything kabsat, and Agpakadaakon!