Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's raining men!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Here comes the rainy season. And men are pouring in from everywhere. Were they really out there the whole time and I wasn’t just looking?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tired Muscles, Aching Feet and the Pilak Girls

Monday, June 25, 2007

Getting old – when does it start? Does it start when we feel the big THREE-O lurking not so far ahead and we find ourselves making more “mature” and carefully thought of decisions and less impulsive and carpe diem choices? Or when we reach the age of 28 but cannot fit into size 28 pants? Or when a sense of dissatisfaction creeps in and we feel this nagging need to run to Singapore or anywhere outside the country to earn bigger bucks? Or when “personal issues” get in the way of staying in touch with friends? Or when we frequently get that sorry-you’ll-find-someone look, only intended for single girls our age? Or when the offer of marriage becomes the decisive factor in staying in a relationship? Or when virtually everybody our age (and even those who are younger) is getting married and having babies, leaving us wondering why we are being left behind? Or worse yet, our pool of eligible men is getting smaller and smaller and even the idea of marrying a “smelly-hairy Arabo” seems not to be a bad idea?

I spent the whole afternoon of Sunday with two of my dearest friends, Carla and Leah. As we contemplate upon these questions, we realized that, ultimately, getting old starts with tired muscles and aching feet after merely an hour of walking in and out of stores – looking for the perfect but within budget blouse and the perfect, butt-enhancing jeans – inside the mall. Willing but unable to walk another step, we had to go to Gloria Jeans just to be able to sit down, revive ourselves and rest our tired feet.

There were six of us then – Jennifer, Christine, Hazel, Carla, Leah and I – when tired feet would have never gotten in the way of us having fun in walking, not in the mall, but up and down (and back again) our beloved Session Road. But that was 14 years ago. Jennifer, still single, is now a doctor in Ohio; Christine, happily married, is a graduate student in New York; Hazel, engaged, is a software engineer in Japan; Carla, also happily married, is about to leave for Singapore, which leaves only Leah and I, both unattached, here in the Philippines. Now scattered in different countries, each of us remain young – though not in body but in mind and spirit – as we were in high school. With tired muscles and all, we never lost the capacity to wonder, to laugh ourselves crazy and to hope that, for all six of us, the best is yet to come.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

There Goes That Look

Thursday, June 21, 2007
They say that an interviewer knows and decides within the first five to nine minutes of an interview whether to hire or not and the time remaining is a mere self-fulfilling prophecy spent verifying and justifying the decision. I agree, in a way. Instinctively, I know if the person sitting in front of me has some degree of potential. Within five minutes, in my mind I can say “pwede!” or not. But it doesn’t end there. More than the interview, I rely on the answers to the essay questions we formulated to have a deeper understanding of the character of the applicant. Blurting out an answer is different from thinking it out and writing it down on paper.

Trying to ascertain what makes a person tick is very enlightening. It sometimes is painful to see applicants – fresh graduates mostly - squirming in their seats, mustering courage and faking confidence in trying to find the right answers. What is more painful is to keep a straight face against all the bull I sometimes hear. On the other end of the spectrum are managers who, with their condescending looks, cannot believe a person as young as I will be the one to interview them. There was an instance when I had to stop myself from saying “Hey mister, don’t give me that look. I may look young but I am actually older than you are! And I may look like one, but I am not a secretary! I head my own department!” And as the interview progresses, the applicant was sweating more and more like a pig! So there goes that look.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

the grey area

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Only until recently was I able to fully apply and appreciate what I learned from the other half of my double major in college – the art and science of psychology. Since graduation in 1999, I worked mostly with stuff within the purview of the discipline of economics – starting as a research assistant for a research program dealing with ancestral domain and natural resource management, getting involved with various projects dealing with development issues, and eventually tackling social capital for my master’s thesis.

Being a number cruncher for some time now, I always dealt with the precise, the accurate and the absolute with which numbers represent. It was always this or that; no maybes; no in-betweens; everything is always in black and white. My unexpected transfer to the world of human resource management forced me to deal more with the grey and the uncertain. The statistics that used to populate my daily work routine has been replaced with people – each having his/her own definition, each his/her own package of mystery, wonder, sanity and madness.

In dealing with human resource affairs, the ceteris paribus assumption of economics has been replaced with the perspective that all other factors are at play at a single time. For instance, do we hire primarily for attitude or for skills? Or both? With all the essay examinations, the interviews, the sophisticated psychometric tools being used for hiring, can we really assess what it is in that person that makes him/her perfect for the job? How does one come up with the right solution to messy employee situations such as erratic absences, long lunches, sexual politics, inability to fit in, chronic unreliability and perpetual complaining and other extremely unpleasant scenarios one can think of?

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Art of Compromise

Monday, June 18, 2007

He used to tell her what to wear: nothing cut too low (at the neck) nor too high (at the hem); nothing see-through nor skin-tight; always perfectly groomed.

What makes the so called give and take of relationships? Is it acquiescence or resistance to hinted, suggested or imposed alterations – to attire, grooming, style, taste, habits and opinions – with each partner being tailored and trying to tailor the other? With every little adjustment - sartorial or otherwise - though difficult at first, partners fit more into the relationship and for each other.

The art of compromise is what makes a relationship work. But compromise becomes compromising when one partner tailors the other into something other than who she really is; when he tries to bend her and she willingly bends over backward for him - in the spirit of compromise - until she is bent unrecognizably out of shape.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Social Capital: A Return to Ethics and Moral Values in Economic Analysis

Thursday, June 14, 2007
The following is an excerpt from my Master's Thesis.

Economic theory - with its myopic focus on self interest- seems to be irreconcilable with ethics and moral philosophy. Goldfarb and Griffith (2002: 234) states that “incorporating moral values and social norms into economic analysis presents various challenges to the traditional model of microeconomic behavior,” wherein “human actors are considered to be rational egoists” and moral values are analyzed in terms of preferences and norms as decision rules or constraints. The separation of ethics and economics is not a recent phenomenon. (Zaratiegui 1999) The first indication of the disassociation of the two disciplines happened during the heyday of positivist methodologies in both disciplines and the resultant secularization of the Renaissance:

..morals were siphoned off from other public domains such as politics and economics. The process of separation that began during the Renaissance fostered a gradual substitution of morals for a “worldly providence”: the belief in a charitable role for the market. The rise of the market order changed this situation dramatically. It broke down the old ties of community by integrating them into an extensive division of labor governed by the abstract logic of commodity exchange. Personal ties between producers were replaced by the anonymous process of commercial transactions. Furthermore, this transformation required a change in the nature of morality itself. It is difficult to see how any kind of general morality can arise spontaneously from an entirely anonymous process of exchange. (Zaratiegui 1999: 210)

However, as various sociologists, economists, and philosophers purport, ethics and economics are interrelated and not mutually exclusive. (Wilber 2003, Sen 1997, Walsh 2003, Putnam 2003 and Zaratiegui 1999) Sen (1997) in his book On Ethics and Economics, argues that:


The nature of modern economics has been substantially impoverished by the distance that has grown between economics and ethics … [economics] can be more productive by paying greater and more explicit attention to the ethical considerations that shape human behaviour and judgement. It is not my purpose to write off what has been or is being achieved, but definitely to demand more.

The relationship between ethics and economics has become less hostile in recent years. (Zaratiegui 1999) The emergence of the concept of social capital illustrates this point. Social capital - which glues individuals and societies together with its emphasis on internalized moral values (such as altruistic behavior, trust and honesty), what Durkheim calls a “collective conscience” and commitment to societal norms - warrants a return to ethics and moral values in economic analysis. It reflects upon the ethical dimensions of economic behavior.

According to Zaratiegui (1999) moral codes and ethical norms that economic agents adhere to are not static entities but instead evolve with changing economic and social conditions. The fundamental idea is that:

Economic life requires cooperation between agents and both encourage morality and are facilitated by it. Moreover, cooperation, initially, is based on self interest, sanctions, and mutual policing, but in the course of time, as social conventions arise, it acquires a moral dimension. (p. 215)

The use of the term “capital” in the concept of social capital is not a betrayal of the value of the social dimension or an undermining of the moral dimension. But on the contrary, it fortifies the social and the moral in human behavior. The use of the term “capital” is essentially tied to the link between social capital and human well-being and development. It is an injustice to conclude that the concept of social capital is merely using an economic justification to make a social idea sound more important since the social, the moral and the economic are intertwined and a complete analysis of one dimension necessitates the analysis of the other dimensions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What does a girl do to mend a broken heart?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
What does a girl do to mend a broken heart? step by painful step, she determinedly crawls out of the 'i-love-him-too-much-i-can't-let-him-go' emotional hole she finds herself trapped in; she buys herself a fabulous pair of shoes; she makes it a point not to look sad and pathetic but effortlessly striking everyday; she drowns herself in work; she fills the rest of her waking hours not obsessing about what went wrong in the relationship but doing the things she loves most; she sweats out all her pent up anger and frustration by working out; she avoids everything that might trigger loneliness and surrounds herself with friends and family - the people who truly care about her; she makes a conscious effort neither to hurt back nor get even; she never loses hope; she continues to believe that everything would fall into its proper place; eager to embrace life and all can offer, she grabs it by the balls and says, “hey world! I survived!”

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Superficial State of Being Okay

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carla, a very close friend of mine, called Sunday afternoon, updating me about the friendster profile of Lorna, my boyfriend’s other girlfriend. For some time now, I never bothered to check her profile, protecting myself from further pain. Listening to my friend recounting the details – the posted pictures, the bubble, everything – was like reopening old wounds that have never really healed yet. Do I have to prove and display the substance of our relationship through photographs and quotations like what she is doing? I don’t think so.

But it hurts still. My supposed present state of “okayness” is superficial. Beneath the placid exterior, in my core being, I suffer still. The pain, though, is less intense now. Perhaps acceptance is setting in. The “letting go” has started. Finally.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Iterax, Beethoven and the Irony of Life

Monday, June 4, 2007

Waking up at 3 pm from a fourteen-hour, Iterax-induced, dreamless yet restful sleep, I started my day. And as I was wolfing down a hurriedly prepared meal of cheese and egg sandwich, a bowl of soup and a glass of milk, I mentally listed down the things I need to accomplish for the rest of the day. Practice Greensleaves on the piano. Retrieve the laundry. Prepare outfits for the week. Vacuum. Work on cross stitch.

Done with all those things, I sat down to watch the movie, Copying Beethoven, a fictional take on the tortured and inspired life of Ludwig Van Beethoven. The movie was not that remarkable but since they made use of the maestro’s very own music – particularly the Ninth Symphony in all its drama and splendor - the score was utterly glorious. It showed Beethoven’s character, deploring his situation:

“My head is constantly filled with sounds. It never stops. The only relief I have is to write it down. God infests my mind with music and then what does he do? He makes me deaf! He denies me the pleasure he allows everyone else – hearing my work.”

Isn’t life ironic?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Fall of Rain

Sunday, June 3, 2007
It was the sureness of his gait that she noticed first. The second is his smile. He exuded an air of authority tempered with a subtle gentleness and a hint of sense of humor.

In this age where the quest for love has been elevated to the status of a holy pilgrimage, without really looking they somehow found each other. She didn’t know how it all started because there never was a formal courtship between them, only furtive glances and little smiles that spoke of what lies beneath. Before, every time he speaks she’d stop briefly and listen intently – not really to what he’s saying but more to the sound of his mellifluous voice. Now, often alone and desolate, his is the voice that she yearns for – to soothe her and make her feel that everything’s going to be all right.

A day after they first met, he passed by her table and said, “Can we talk?” Those three words started everything and eventually changed the course of their lives. They spent virtually the whole afternoon talking and assessing each other. She was quite impressed – with his mental acuity, zeal, eloquence and inimitability. That afternoon, he won her over completely and irrevocably. He was intrigued - with her naïveté, aloofness, idealism and air of mystery. With an airy, lightheaded feeling, it suddenly dawned on her that by some means she interested him, too. To this day, she can still remember the evolving spark and the original chemistry that connected him to her.

Their relationship was like a fall of rain. They might have hoped for it; they might have predicted it; they might have wanted it; they might have dreaded it; they might have needed it; they might have wanted it to stop; they might have watched the clouds headed their way on radar, feeling certain rain is imminent. But when it finally rained, it was a wonder – an experience like no other. And never did they expect that the wonder would last until this day.

All odds are against them. He is a widower in his early 40’s who has been there and done that; She is a wide-eyed wannabe in her late 20’s, still struggling to find her place in this world. He has been trained within the rigid walls of the military, espousing discipline and strength of character; She has been educated within the liberal halls of the academe, advocating intellectual freedom and academic excellence. He was raised with strong family values; She came from a broken family. He wasn’t ready for any commitment; She accepted that but never fully understood why. She is at times very insecure; He tried to but never fully understood why. He is short-tempered; She tends to force the issue. She is very proud of him and their relationship; He wants to keep everything under wraps. He has an artless, rocklike solidity about him; She is of a wistful, melancholic spirit. For a long time, they lived miles away from each other. He is explosive; She is implosive. He’s a realist; she’s a romantic. He is a father full of responsibilities; She doesn’t have the kind of responsibilities he has and is terribly immature but wants to learn and be of help to him.

Despite all these, they’re still together – the probity of their love unwavering, each contributing to the other’s happiness and well-being, constantly being each other’s support system, and unyieldingly trying to understand, respect and accept each other’s perspectives, needs and idiosyncrasies. Several untoward incidents have happened that threatened to break them apart. Only then did they realize that what couldn’t break their relationship only made it stronger.

They have been together – intermittently but incessantly - for one thousand and one hundred seventy days now. She still feels the tension, uncertainty, fear and thrill in not knowing what he really feels and whether they will end up together. But she has now realized that loving him is about knowing all the facts about him – good and bad – and caring about him anyway. Not merely caring about him, but loving him more.

(written January 2005)

But the inevitable happened - the rain has ceased to fall…

Saturday, June 2, 2007

placid sea

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Surprisingly, I’m okay. After everything that has happened, everybody’s asking me if I am. I really am. I'm happily floating on a placid sea.

This is so not me.

Friday, June 1, 2007

my comfort zone

Friday, June 1, 2007

Dredging up fears of inadequacy and mediocrity, my ex-boyfriend endlessly insisted that I should get out of my comfort zone. His compelling but irksome question was, “what is a UP cum laude with a post graduate degree doing in a small local company and not earning big bucks in a multinational company or somewhere outside the country?” “You are just wasting your talents there,” he said. Fading into a slack insubstantiality, the ever-confused and self-doubting me asked, “Am I?” What do I really want?

My answer is, “Like any other person, I want to enjoy life, in all its simplicity and grandeur.” I don’t want to be a corporate slave; I want to have the freedom to spend my time doing worthwhile things; I want to take pleasure in the unhurried pace of life – the utter bliss (and the exercise) I get from a 10-minute walk from home to work and not having to endure the daily stress of commuting and driving through hell-like traffic; the serenity that comes from having the time to indulge in the small pleasure of reading a good book, playing the piano or simply being a couch potato; the sheer happiness I get from the capability to go home to my family every weekend; the feeling of fulfillment from going to work everyday and being able to do something that I love doing; the liberty to pursue other interests – in social and political concerns, creative projects, or even higher studies - that I care passionately for; and the contentment that although I cannot afford neither spur-of-the-moment shopping splurges nor up-to-date gadgets, I am comfortable enough to have my own place, pay the bills on time, and save a fraction of my pay.

I used to have my own little world, intentionally distancing myself from my workmates. I now find solace in their company, sharing in the laughter that comes from the small things that brighten up our daily work routine.


 
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