Friday, November 11, 2005

digging another hole

Like a wide-eyed virgin, I started working for this institute three years ago. From television scripts measured in minutes, grouchy TV directors who throw tantrums, and location shoots in the best and worst sites of the country, I shifted gears to accommodate tripartism, globalization, international labor conventions, and economic issues into my staple diet. I knew I sashayed into something totally alien when I found myself draining the blood out of my writing to make it look like a corpse that has just been embalmed, like what nice technical writing should be.

The work was not as bland as I had imagined, though. If my stint as a media practitioner involved risking life and limb, this job had its fair share of attractions too. I learned to enjoy working while incensed chants of an irate mob outside the office calmed my nerves every afternoon. Last song syndrome, for me, included catchy leftist songs and tacky slogans sweetly borne by the air from the mob that jammed the street down below. During lucky days, I got to see abstract works of art on our office walls, left by rallyists who had hurled cans of red paint at us.

The office bustles with life at lunchtime, when manangs with plastic-wrapped food go up and shout “Lunch” like true-blooded Divisoria divas. That’s the clarion call for my colleagues to stop anything they’re doing and congregate on the corridor like convicts claiming their rationed grub. It’s sheer joy to watch various characters streaming out of their cubicles to check out the food with the same curiosity hagglers rummage through used underwear in a flea market. These were the same characters that I worked with during research projects that required us to comb the whole country and jump from one island to another. I got to interview a lot of people—from rosy-cheeked child laborers up in the chilly Cordilliera Mountains to dignified ministers in the posh presidential palace of Indonesia. Honestly, I prefer the candor of the former.

During peak seasons, work came in truckloads. Articles for publication, speeches for some idiotic hotshot, PowerPoint presentations that needed some tweaking, books that required meticulous lay-out in Pagemaker, Senate bills that had to be commented on, and all the usual shit. One time—that was when my fever chased the mercury out of the thermometer—I was asked to co-write a speech for the highest official of the Republic. It was nothing much, really. I was just assigned to write a portion of it; the rest would be written by two other people. I was told to complete it in an hour. So, with my neurons broiling and my hands shaking, I feverishly pounded on my keyboard to produce whatever shit my wrung-up mind was still capable of producing. My boss was checking on me every five minutes, and that’s not an exaggeration. The Palace was already badgering us to submit it immediately. I think I came up with just two pages of crap that my boss edited in a jiffy and hurriedly emailed to the Palace to be further butchered and mangled and twisted according to Her Excellency’s whims. I spent the whole day in bed the following day, languishing in bad-tempered reveries. I was never asked to write a speech for her again.

Lean seasons gave us more leeway to enjoy the finer things in life. An elderly masseuse, who was as regular as our old, horny Xerox guy, would come strolling about, peddling her services. Shiatsu or Thai? Efficascent oil or Ilog Maria essences? One by one, my co-workers would book her. And then the whole office would swell with the fragrance of an old, dying matriarch in comatose.

Management favored harmony of work and family responsibilities, a concept that made the whole office a veritable nursery with whining babies and running kids. It’s not unusual to hear a scandalous wail or a shriek of delight while you’re writing something about the impact of trade liberalization on Philippine economy. Times like that, you wish you were writing something on overpopulation and the best way to control couples’ horniness so they would stop making damn babies that would wail like lunatic assholes at the workplace.

Don’t get me wrong. I love kids, especially those that can already talk. I just can’t stand infants and toddlers. There was this boy at the office, the son of a co-worker, who constantly visited my cubicle to chat about his latest videogame. He would hang around my workstation and sometimes play with my plastic action figures of Shrek and the Dragon. I didn’t mind it, really. Because, as I said, I enjoy being with kids. But one time, when I had to finish editing some articles, he decided to hang out longer and watch my picture-album screen saver. He saw a picture of me standing in front of the Notre Dame de Paris.

“What church is that?” he asked.

“That’s Quiapo Church,” I replied, without looking up from the article I was working on.

“Oh, I see. How about that? What place is this?” he was referring to some park in Europe.

“That’s the Quiapo Park.”

“Oh, and this one looks really nice. Where is this?”

“That’s the other side of the Quiapo church.”

“How about this tall tower? Where is this?”

“That’s the Quiapo Tower.”

“You’re pulling my leg. How come you are wearing a thick jacket and mufflers here? I don’t think Quiapo is this cold!”

“Well, it must’ve been cold as hell when I went there.”

Exasperated by my standard Quiapo answers, he left me alone, probably thinking that Quiapo was a wintry place with grand palaces and courtyards filled with friendly pigeons.

But these kids are minor distractions compared to the accounting and administrative guys. They have the exceptional talent of chatting among themselves and making it appear like they’re haranguing ten thousand people in an open-air stadium. They upgrade a couple of decibels higher during birthday parties, when the standard pancit (sautéed Chinese noodles with vegetables and bits of chicken), pan de sal (little pieces of breakfast buns), and Coke litter the conference room table.

Which brings me to our crazy Christmas parties that required everyone to come in costume. We’ve dressed up as ethnic tribespeople and Animé characters. One Christmas, we even had a bedroom party in which one co-worker showed up with rollers on her hair, night cream plastered on her face, and a big teddy bear in her arms. These parties, with their wanton craziness and brazen crassness, did provide me with respite from the drab looks of my little blue cubicle beside the ancient air-conditioning unit that freezes my balls into some spermatic black hole. I have worked zealously, lazily, and haphazardly. At times I felt that I was already a captive of this cubicle. Other times, it seemed like I was the master of it. Even as I hear unabashed gossiping floating around like smog, I still felt that I belonged here. That I dug a hole here, safe and secure. This was my office. And for three years, this has been my life.

A contract with another company now bears my signature. Another blue cubicle is waiting to ensnare me like a wide-eyed virgin. With shovel in hand, I’m all set to dig yet another hole.



At 11:45 PM, Blogger sayong said...

I thought you'd mention where you're working now. Frau Fe is asking about you, too :) Miss ka na niya :)
One of our classmates is also very interested to know where you're working now. Si Lilibeth ba yung lumipat sa French? If so, then si Leah ang naghahanap sa iyo :) Medyo, nako-confuse ako sa kanila, eh :) Anyway, she took up French before your batch.
11-11-05 11:45pm

At 9:52 AM, Anonymous muddynights said...

hahahaha... you actually co-wrote GMA's speech huh? did she use it? i hope you wrote something crappy befiting the one who is supposed to read it :)

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Saint Eroica said...

what 'actually' happened bro?

At 3:37 PM, Blogger bing said...

was very entertained by the conversation with the little boy... and then you said, you like kids ha ha ha

good luck with your new job!

At 9:19 PM, Blogger bismuth said...

good luck on the new dig.

At 12:27 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

SAYONG--i also miss German class. wish i could join you guys again. unfortunately, my new sked doesn't allow it. sad. yeah, i remember lilibeth. yung lawyer na lumipat sa french class? Leah's from german class, right? say hi to them for me. how are you doing? i read about your medical condition? hope everything's ok.

btw, saw your boss in glorietta this evening. he was also there for the israeli film festival.

MUDDYNIGHTS--i have no idea if they retained what i wrote or if they edited it out entirely. i should've written: "I am sorry. I suck. Now, let me hie off to the South Pole and die like a proper bitch."

SAINT EROICA--nothing. i had no prob with my former office, really. i just felt i needed to move on and try new stuff.

BING AKA JULIET--yes i do like kids. honest. i usually get along well with them. this boy i was talking about sometimes thinks that i am the same age as he is.

thanks. i do hope i do well in my new office.

BISMUTH--thans. i think i'd have to bring a bigger spade this time.

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Abaniko said...

All the luck! Just ensure Blogspot isn't blocked over there.

At 9:21 PM, Blogger snst_blvd said...

mumu! as in ghostwriter! ^_^

At 7:48 PM, Blogger dionne said...

haay naku! you never told us anything. ganyanan na! hmp! anyway, have you really resigned as in resign or took a leave of absence? better if you did the latter, at least if the other sucks that your last job you can always go back. =D we're allowed one year anyway.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

tv show? what tv show ..

At 9:44 PM, Blogger jenjaded said...

Chris! Musta ka na? San ka na nagwowork?

At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Minda said...

Mami-miss kita Chris.....



tulo laway.....

akala ko pa naman, magkakatuluyan tayo....

At 5:13 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

ABANIKO--nope, it's not blocked. but i don't have much time to blog now. sad.

SUNSET--i also look like a mumu.

DIONNE--sorry, wasn't able to tell you. sobra bilis kasi pangyayari. i still have to finish my commitments so whether or not i like it, i would have to extend my stay here. 2 na ang office ko ulit.

RMACAPOBRE--did documentaries, special shows, news, etc for some obscure tv station before.

JENJADED--oist! nasa philippines ka na? oo, ibang office na ako ngayon.

MINDA--Ate Minda! mamimiss ko rin po kayo!





kasi naman kayo eh, di nyo po sinabi sa akin na may pagananasa kayo sa akin, e di sana, may nangyari man lang sa ating dalawa. (suka, tae, dahak ulit). pero alam ko naman pong may boyfriend kayong hapon eh. dun na lang kayo sa knya. at saka baka po magselos si kurt...


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