Cubao Traffic [Poetry]

Along EDSA—
My journey’s interrupted
By every sudden brake. Stopping
On every street, every traffic light. My life
(here atop the Santolan flyover) is going down
Into the waiting mouth of Cubao. I’m so hungry.
But inside this bus, like rag on a clothes line
Along EDSA where the plants and trees have died,
It’s hot. And humid. My insides are on fire. Sweat pours out
All over my body. A part of me gets left behind with every stop…
Wave the fan! Feverish fan!  Sigh. So much for our hurried lives.
There’s too many of us chasing after; being chased by
Time.   I better buy
Candy and peanuts
While waiting
For the bus to

Move.

 

* * * * *

This is part of the #BiyahengEDSA series of reflections for the Pinoy young professional. Read other parts of this series below:

Introduction
Monumento: Out of the Way ang Idealism
Balintawak Cloverleaf: Entry Level
North EDSA: Ito Pala ang Rat Race
Timog Avenue: I Just Want to Have Some Fun!
Cubao Traffic [Poetry]
Ortigas: Relihiyon, Rebolusyon
Swerving after Crossing Ilalim on a Monday Morning [Poetry]
Boni-Guadalupe: Shifting Lanes
Ayala: Traffic sa Fast Lane.
Magallanes: Divergent Roads
EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?
Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads

Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads

Whether you find yourself inside a mall somewhere in Monumento, malapit sa bantayog ni Andres Bonifacio, or sa dulo ng EDSA Extension, at the end of the day, you’ll need to go home. But after going to a mall to buy something o tumambay lang, did you have that feeling that you wasted a few hours of your life? And that those hours should have been spent doing something better?

At some point in your journey, mapapaisip ka if you’re in the right road, or kung tama ba yung destination na pinili mo. Being in the crossroads could catch up with you in different stages of life. Minsan tinatawag itong “quarterlife crisis” para sa mga young adults in their twenties.

Looking back, nagkaroon na pala ako ng tatlong major crossroads: the first one when I decided to go back to Manila even though I intended to work in our province for good. The second one was when I resigned from a well-paying job so I could serve as the National President of our church youth organization. Lastly, the most recent, is when my family and I decided to move to the United States para sa isang mas malaking ministry service opportunity.

Crossroads: From Bad to an Improved Situation

Making a decision in my first crossroads was easy. My mother made me realize that the place I was in—being unemployed and waiting for opportunities that might never come—was unsustainable. Since wala akong work sa province noon, the solution was easy—shift to a different path where I can get a decent job, but it required moving back to Metro Manila. If you’re in a situation like this—madali mag-decide. It’s from a bad situation to an improved one.

Crossroads: From Good to an Uncertain Situation

Mas mahirap mag-decide sa second crossroads ko. I enjoyed a well-paying job at a BPO company. Nasa track din ako for eventual promotion. Kaya lang, I became the National President of our church youth organization. At dahil gusto ko gawin ang ministry na iyon, it didn’t matter kung walang suweldo, I really felt that I could pursue it. At dahil wala naman akong major major responsibilities sa buhay, I decided to go for it, kahit na alam kong puno ito ng uncertainty.

Image credit: unlawyer via Flickr

Image credit: unlawyer via Flickr

It’s not easy to make decisions in a crossroad like this—when you’re in a comfortable position, and you’re being called to make some sacrifices sa career at sa buhay mo. Of course, kung may asawa at anak ako when this particular crossroad happened to me, it would have been a much tougher choice.

And if you are faced with this kind of crossroad, you will need a strong conviction that God is calling you to this particular path—you’ll need that conviction when the doubts come knocking. Make no mistake, those doubts will come, and unless you believe in your direction strongly enough, madali kang mawala sa path mo.

Crossroads: From Good to a Better Situation

Making decisions in my most recent crossroad isn’t as tough as the previous one. May nag-open na ministry opportunity for me sa United States, I applied for it, got accepted and the job was offered to me. Siempre, kasama sa mga decision factors ang financial considerations, ang status ng aming maliit, pero growing na pamilya, ang difficulties ng pagiging OFWs at marami pang iba. Going to the US also meant saying goodbye, albeit temporarily, sa aking fledgling na author career, sa podcast at blog na inumpisahan ko, sa hosting gig sa DZAS Family Matters, at iba pang mga pinagkakaabalahan.

May mga trade-offs ang mga crossroads. You can’t have everything. You neeed to make a choice. Aling option ang naka-align sa mga values at principles mo? What’s the use of succeedinig if you end up losing your soul?

It’s Okay to Step Back

Puwedeng super-urgent ang crossroad na hinaharap mo, but most of the time, you can take a few days or a few weeks para mag-isip-isip and make a decisions. Don’t make decisions when emotions are running high. The decisions you make are important, but HOW you make decisions is equally important.

In the same way, your goals, your destinations matter, but the journey you take is equally important. So if you change your direction or destination, it’s okay to step back, to assess yourself, to do some “soul searching”, and it’s okay to feel lost. Lahat naman tayo, nararamdaman yan at some point in our lives.

Noong first year College ako na bagong salta sa Metro Manila, binigyan ako ng travel tip ng nanay ko. Sa experience niya, kung maliligaw siya sa Manila, basta mapunta siya sa Quiapo, she’ll be fine—makikita na niya ang mga jeep at bus papunta sa iba’t ibang dako ng Manila.

Para sa marami sa atin, ang point of reference ay Pasay Rotonda. Malapit doon ang airport, maraming bus terminals papuntang Northern at Southern Philippines, maraming jeep terminals, mga city buses, at nandoon din ang MRT-3 at LRT-1 stations.

Hindi lang monetary success, materialism, at commercialism ang purpose ng buhay natin. At kahit na malaking-malaking globo ng mundo ang nakikita natin sa dulo ng EDSA, hindi talaga ito ang ating destinasyon. Sometimes, we need to step back para bumalik sa crossroads: sa Pasay Rotonda ng ating buhay.

Maraming puwedeng destinasyon. Kagaya ng alin mang paglalakbay, laging may pamasaheng kailangang bayaran—there’s always a price to be paid. Ano man ang status mo ngayon sa work, sa buhay, may you find the path that’s right for you.

Sabi sa Jeremiah 6:16 (ESV) “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Bilang isang kabataan na kasapi ng workforce, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. May mga travelers na nauna nang naglakbay, and if you seek out the ancient paths, you will find the good way.

So if you are still in that soul-searching mode, heed the call of Jeremiah. Similarly, Jesus admonished his followers: “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29, NLT)

Nakakapagod ang always-on pressure ng materialism at consumerism sa ating panahon: It is a never-ending pressure to conform, to upgrade our lifestyle, to buy the gadgets and things that are in season. I hope it won’t come to the point where you become like the speaker in Ecclesiastes, who boldly declares that “everything is meaningless.”

Kaya ngayon pa lang, follow the path that will not lead to losing your soul. Follow the path that will give rest for your soul. Along EDSA, marami kang biyaheng puwedeng gawin. May your destination and journey be full of adventure, grace, and peace.

* * * * *

This is part of the #BiyahengEDSA series of reflections for the Pinoy young professional. Read other parts of this series below:

Introduction
Monumento: Out of the Way ang Idealism
Balintawak Cloverleaf: Entry Level
North EDSA: Ito Pala ang Rat Race
Timog Avenue: I Just Want to Have Some Fun!
Cubao Traffic [Poetry]
Ortigas: Relihiyon, Rebolusyon
Swerving after Crossing Ilalim on a Monday Morning [Poetry]
Boni-Guadalupe: Shifting Lanes
Ayala: Traffic sa Fast Lane.
Magallanes: Divergent Roads
EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?
Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads

EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?

Kung monumento ni Andres Bonifacio ang nasa Northern end ng EDSA, isa ring monumento ang makikita natin sa Southern end nito. Pagtawid mo ng Roxas Blvd, dadaan ka sa EDSA Extension patungo sa napakalaking monumento ng kapitalismo at konsumerismo: ang Mall of Asia. Tatambad sa iyo ang isang malaking globo na tuwing gabi ay umiilaw at nagpapakita ng mapa ng mundo, at paminsan-minsan, umiikot ang iba’t ibang uri ng advertisement.

Pilipinas na yata ang may pinakamaraming shopping malls kung icoconsider natin ang ating land area. Every 10 kilometers yata ay may malaking mall. Imagine, may mahigit 50 malls ang SM all over the country at marami diyan ang nasa Manila. Kung isasama natin ang Robinsons, Ayala Malls, at pati na rin yung mga mas maliit na players kagaya ng Puregold at Waltermart, sobrang dami niyan! Kung titingnan mo ang dami ng mga taong nagpupunta sa malls, iisipin mong hindi naghihirap ang mga Pinoy.

Mall of Asia ang isa sa mga biggest mall sa ating bansa. Imagine, tinambakan lang naman ng lupa ang kinatatayuan ng MoA, dati dagat talaga yan. Pero ngayon, sobrang daming tao ang bumibisita araw-araw. Kung kailangan mo ng mga damit, gadgets at iba pang gamit, dalaw ka lang. Bili dito, bili doon. Hindi lang iyan, uso na rin ang pagbili ng “experience” at memories ngayon—manood ng sine, mag-ice skating, mag-bungee jumping, sakay sa MoA Eye at tingnan ang cityscape ng Manila. O di kaya, mag-celebrate–kain, inom, coffee, at kung anu-ano pang foods.

Pero ito ang siste, welcome ka dito kung may pera ka. Kung wala, hanggang amoy ka na lang, hanggang window shopping, at least puwedeng magpalamig, o di kaya’y tumambay sa may park area para makita ang polluted na Manila Bay. Naalala ko tuloy yung kanta ng Yano na “Esem”: “Patingin-tingin, di naman makabili. Pasulyap-sulyap di makapanood ng sine. Walang ibang pera kundi pamasahe. Nakayanan ko lang pambili ng dalawang yosi…” Tapos sa korus nito, isinisigaw ng bokalista: “Nakakainis ang ganitong buhay…”

Ito nga ba ang klase ng buhay na gusto natin? Bakit nga ba ang lakas ng hatak ng konsepto ng ‘success’ sa atin? In the first place, ano nga ba ang success?

Success: The Usual Suspects

Kung tatanungin ang marami sa atin kung sino-sino ang mga successful na tao sa ating mundo, madalas isinasagot ang mga sikat at kilala; ang mga negosyante na may malalaking business, o di kaya ang mga nakarating sa mataas na puwesto sa gobyerno o sa mga private companies na kinabibilang nila, iyong mga nagkamit ng maraming awards, o di kaya ay iyong mga yumaman. In short, ito ang mga usual suspects pagdating sa usapan tungkol sa success: money, fame, and power.

Money.

Sabi ng kantang “Mukha ng Pera” by The Youth (sikat sila noong late 1990s): “Bakit ang pera may mukha, bakit ang mukha walang pera?” Sa ating panahon, sobrang hirap mamuhay nang walang pera—wala kang pambili ng pagkain, walang pang-allowance pagpasok sa school, at para bang pyramid scam ang pagdami ng worries natin. Kaya nga raw minsan, napaghahalata yung walang pera kasi nagiging bugnutin.

Money represents potential.Mga taong may pera, may kakayanan silang bumili ng maraming bagay na puwedeng magbigay ng happiness. Kapag may pera ka, marami kang puwedeng bilhin: mga damit, sasakyan, bahay, mga gadgets. Puwede ka ring manood ng sine kasama ng iyong mga minamahal. Kung gusto mong magbakasyon sa Boracay, o kaya sa Europe, basta may pera ka, pwede! At para sa mga pamilyang may pera, hindi problema kung saan gustong mag-aral ng mga anak—kahit sa private school or magpunta sa kahit anong city para sa college, okay lang.

Sabi ng kanta ng Beatles: “Money can’t buy me love.” At marami ring nagsasabi na money can’t buy happiness. Iko-quote naman ng mga pilosopo si Clare Boothe Luce: “Money can’t buy happiness but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable.”

Tandaan natin, money itself isn’t the problem; but it’s the love of money: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” Hindi masama ang yumaman at magkaroon ng marmaing pera. Ang problema, kung kinain ka na ng greed and you pursuit money, pwede mong malimutan ang mga moral principles mo.

At sa isang banda, money or the lack of it can serve as a distraction for understanding your purpose in life. Sabi nga ni Tim Ferriss: “Adding more [money] just isn’t the answer as often as we’d like to think. In part, it’s laziness. “If only I had more money is the easiest way to postpone the intense self-examination and decision-making necessary to create a life of enjoyment—now and not later…. Busy yourself with the routine of the money wheel, pretend it’s the fix-all and you artfully create a constant distraction that prevents you from seeing just how pointless it is. Deep down, you know it’s all an illusion, but with everyone participating in the same game of make-believe, it’s easy to forget.”

If you decide to chase after money, you may become like a hamster on the wheel just working and working, without pausing and thinking about why you are doing all of these things.

Fame.

In addition to money, fame is another metric by which we try to measure success. Iniisip natin na kapag sikat ang isang tao, successful na siya. Kaya nga kung tatanungin mo ang maraming bata o maraming kabataan ngayon kung anong gusto nilang maging paglaki, marami ang sasagot ng “artista.”

Ano nga ba ang fame? At bakit gustong gusto natin itong makuha?

If you have fame, ibig sabihin maraming nakakakilala sa iyo. Sikat ka. Celebrity. May mga nakakakita ng mukha o pangalan mo sa TV, sa printed materials, may mga nakakarinig ng boses mo sa radio, o di kaya ay naging viral ka for a time. In a positive sense, fame means that a lot of people know and recognize you because of your talent, something you did, or dahil sobrang dalas ka nilang makita.

May mga sumikat nang dahil sa talent nila—writers, painters, dancers, at iba pang uri ng artists. Puwedeng na-recognize sila dahil sa mga awards gaya ng Nobel Prize, Palanca, Ms. Universe Pageant, Ramon Magsaysay Awards, at iba pa. Mayroon din namang mga sumikat nang dahil sa mga literary outputs nila. Wala mang natanggap na award si Bob Ong, pero dahil sa mga sinulat niyang libro, naging sikat siya.

Still, mayroon ding mga sumikat na talented nang dahil sa YouTube—sina Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda, at iba. Yung iba naman, kahit wala masyado (o wala talaga) silang talent, dahil sa exposure sa TV, radio, at internet, sumikat na rin.

Pero may mga sumikat din nang hindi nila sinasadya. Naalala mo yung Amalayer fiasco some time back? Sa Social Media ngayon, kung may nagawa o nasabi kang hindi masyadong kaaya-aya at may nag-record ng video, lagot!

You see, you can have fame as a result of a combination of talent or skills, exposure, and some luck. Iyong mga sikat na writers, artists, or personalities did not become famous overnight. Most of the time, they pursued their craft long before they became recognized. They practiced. They improved their craft. They kept doing things, and at the right time, the world recognized them.

Ang siste, tila may expiry date ang fame. It’s not very easy to hold on to it. The most enduring artists of our time had to reinvent themselves over and over. Just look at successful writers like Stephen King, or to successful actors and actresses hindi lang sa Pilipinas kundi abroad, they are only as good as their last performance. Kaya nga, fame, in itself, is not what we should aim for, but whether we get it or not, we should focus on being excellent in the field we have chosen.

Power.

People equate success with power. This could be in politics or in the corporate ladder. The higher position you attain, the more successful you are perceived to be. In the corporate world, this means being promoted to supervisor, then to manager, then becoming an executive in your field. Sa politics naman, it may mean being elected in higher elected positions, or staying in power for a very long time—‘di ba sa politics, may mga apelyido na yun at yun pa rin ang nakikita natin sa iba’t ibang mga bayan at probinsiya kahit ilang dekada na ang lumipas?

Having power means exerting influence in an organization or in the society. Having power means making decisions that affect the lives of people around you.

Kung manager ka sa isang organization, kelangan mong i-interpret ang mga rules ng company and enforce them as needed; kailangan mo ring gawin ang lahat ng makakaya mo to achieve the goals of the organization.

Power also means having access to resources. This is where power gets intertwined with money. If used for good, you can help your organization achieve its goals. Puwede ring maging mas maayos ang buhay ng mga taong pinaglilingkuran mo kung nasa politics ka naman.

But power has its temptations. If you’re not careful, baka maging arogante ka at feeling mo isa kang hari o reyna na kailangang pagsilbihan ng mga nakapaligid sa iyo. Hindi lang iyan, dahil may access ka sa resources, you may be tempted to use your influence para payamanin ang sarili at mga kabarkada mo. Or baka naman gamitin mo rin ang power na iyan to silence other people who do not agree with you.

So when you achieve a level of success or power, be careful not to fall into these temptations. They may become the cause of your downfall.

Redefining Your Metrics of Success

It’s very easy to measure success in terms of money, power, and fame. Iyan na kasi ang madalas na sinusukat ng mundo. What if we dig deeper and go beyond these three metrics? Sa tingin ko, may mas malalim na sukatan nang success at kung mahahanap natin ito, it would help us live a fulfilling life, and not the rat-race so often experienced by those who pursue these three measures of success. It’s time to redefine how we measure success.

Image Credit: Ron Mader via Flickr

Image Credit: Ron Mader via Flickr

Please take note that redefining success is not a call to stop hard work or smart work, it’s a shifting of our mindset and priority to what is really important. The past chapters highlighted the challenges of being a young professional in the world today. We’ve also seen some of the price that you need to pay if you want to chase after success. Whatever you decide to do in life, I hope and pray that you will give it your best shot, not because it will lead to money, power, and fame, but rather, because the act of working, itself, is noble and worthy of our energies.

Sustainability.

What if instead of money, we measure sustainability and faithfulness to your calling? Money is not the goal. Money and wealth can help us sustain the path that we embarked on. Alam ko na bilang mga kabataan, we have a lot of idealism in our hearts—that we want to change the world. But there is pursuing your idealism for one month, and pursuing it over your lifetime.

Kung itotodo mo ang pag-pursue sa isang bagay without being able to sustain it, madali kang mapapagod at puwede kang ma-burnout. When that happens, you just might drop the idealism dahil kailangan mo ng pambayad sa mga bills mo.

There is always a cost, a price to pay, for your goals. At kung gusto mong magtagal sa napili mong path, treat it like a marathon, not a sprint. Pang-matagalan ito at hindi lang kung kailan mo feel gawin.

If you pursue sustainability, maiiwasan mo ang temptation ng greed, without becoming poor. Sabi nga ng isang proverb :

“give me neither poverty nor riches.
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.”

Ano kaya ang magiging hitsura ng mundo kung ito rin ang magiging prayer natin—“give me just enough to satisfy my needs.”?

Maybe, we’d have a world without the problems brought about by the excesses of consumerism. Mas kaunti ang mga basura, less ang stress sa buhay ng mga tao, maybe climate change will not be an issue, and people will be treated more like people, instead of being treated simply as workers, slaves, and means to an end.

Service.

What if instead of power, we measure acts of service we render to others? Power can be a good thing. But it should be used to serve others and not to further personal gain.

A lot of politicians claim to be servants of the people. Pero kung titingnan mo ang lifestyle nila: malalaki ang mga bahay, magaganda ang sasakyan, at kahit anong pagca-calculate ay hindi magtutugma ang suweldo nila bilang “public servant” sa tindi ng spending levels nila.

This is not to say na lahat ng politicians ay corrupt. There are a lot of politicians who try to serve honestly and do the right things. But that is not easy.

Politicians are supposed to serve the people. Being in a position of power can help you do that, pero kahit na wala kang formal position of power, you can do acts of service to different people around you.

At the office, acts of service could mean going beyond your job description to do a really good job. It could also mean going out of your way to help your colleague in a difficult project at work. Acts of service could also be done to strangers needing help.

One time, nag-aaway yung mga disciples ni Jesus kung sino sa kanila ang magiging greatest apostles. And Jesus had something to say to them:

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”

I have read countless business and self-help books and blogs all saying a variation of this theme: if you want to be rich/famous/significant or be on top of the world, you need to serve as many people as you can. There is a truth to that, start with the acts of service, not on the power. Sometimes, those who shun power, who do not actively seek it out eventually gets it because they’ve been actively serving and serving other people even when they didn’t have power.

Relationships.

What if instead of pursuing fame, we build meaningful relationships? Kapag famous ka, maraming tao ang nakaka-recognize sa iyo—alam nila ang pangalan mo, they recognize your face, and they would recognize your face everywhere you go. Bye-bye privacy.

But these people know about you, but they don’t know you. Hindi nila alam ang favorite color mo, the things that make you worry, your deepest joys, at kahit na iyong mga kababawan mo sa buhay. The reverse is also true. If you’re famous, there’s just no chance for you to be intimately acquainted with lots and lots of people.

Sa isang banda, gusto nating mas maraming tao ang makaalam sa mga ideas natin, maging bahagi ng movement na itinatayo natin, or at the very least, dumami ang awareness sa mga projects at advocacy na ginagawa natin. But making a project or advocacy popular is not the same as making yourself popular. The former is about a cause, the latter is about you.

Kung titingnan din natin ang mga importanteng movements throughout history, they did not start out by targeting the masses. Most of these movements started small: si Jesus at ang labindalawang barkada niya; ang magkapatid na John & Charles Wesley at ang mga katropa nilang Methodists; si Jose Rizal at ang pangkat ng mga kabataan at rebolusyonaryong Pinoy. The crowds eventually followed, pero nag-umpisa sa isang maliit na grupo.

That’s why fame is never the goal.

Mas matagal ang proseso kapag nagbi-build ka ng relationships; puwedeng paisa-isa, dalawa, o maliit na grupo lang ang kasama mo lagi.

Sabi nga ng isang African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The more you invest in the lives of people around you, mas Malaki rin ang impact na maiiwan mo sa kanila, at mas maraming lessons ang puwede mong matutunan mula sa kanila.

A Full Life

Maraming tao ang busyng-busy sa kanilang pursuit of happiness. They chase after the usual metrics of success and then, pagdating ng dapit-hapon ng buhay nila, they wonder about where all the time went—instead of happy memories, mga panahong’ laging nagmamadali; instead of happiness, a profound sense of sadness and regrets because of missed connections and shallow relationships.

Ano ba ang opposite ng happiness? It’s not sadness, but boredom.

Sa mga ganitong usapan, lagi kong naaalala ang aklat ng Ecclesiastes, where the writer-philosopher wrote that “everything is meaningless…” Ang pagkakalap ng maraming kayamanan, ang pagkakaroon ng maraming asawa at kalaguyo, ang pagpapatayo ng mansion at kung ano pang mga senyales ng kayamanan at kapangyarihan: lahat iyan, in the end, meaningless.

Kaya mahalagang tanong ito: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

Kaya nauso ang “soul searching” kasi sa paghahangad ng marami to “gain the whole world,” they have lost their soul. Huwag hintayin na mangyari ito sa iyo.

Sometimes, to gain clarity, you need to step back. Think. Do a little bit of soul searching, and clarify priorities. Balik ka sa intersection at doon hanapin kung saan ka ba dapat magpunta.

* * * * *

This is part of the #BiyahengEDSA series of reflections for the Pinoy young professional. Read other parts of this series below:

Introduction
Monumento: Out of the Way ang Idealism
Balintawak Cloverleaf: Entry Level
North EDSA: Ito Pala ang Rat Race
Timog Avenue: I Just Want to Have Some Fun!
Cubao Traffic [Poetry]
Ortigas: Relihiyon, Rebolusyon
Swerving after Crossing Ilalim on a Monday Morning [Poetry]
Boni-Guadalupe: Shifting Lanes
Ayala: Traffic sa Fast Lane.
Magallanes: Divergent Roads
EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?
Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads