I graduated with a degree of BA Political Science from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, back in 2003. I started working in June 2003. That means, I’ve been in the workforce for 11 years. So, I decided to look back at my yuppie story and share it through this blog. This can be a pretty long series, so I hope you join me in this ride.
Three weeks after I went home from Quezon City, a lot of my boxes sat unopened in my room in San Mateo, Isabela. I was still high with idealism: I’m going to change the world. And I’ll start in that town, somehow.
Beyond that vague feeling, however, I had no idea what I would be doing next.
Still, it felt good to be home. (Cue music: Home by Daughtry)
Mama’s cooking is definitely miles ahead of anything that Jollibee or UP’s Lutong Bahay could offer me. My younger brother, who was then in Grade 2, was always there for me to tickle and play with. Papa was very busy with church work, but he was a strong and steady presence in my life at that stage that I was figuring out what I wanted to do.
Writing Down My Plans
Back in my second semester in College, I decided to keep a journal. I realized the importance of doing that, thanks to my Comm 1 teacher who “coerced” us to write 5 pages of loose leaf paper daily! I hated her that first semester. But after that sem, I changed my mind and thanked her, instead. (But that’s another story for another time.)
So on May 2003, I found myself going to my journal and writing about my plans, my hopes, and my aspirations. As I remarked in a previous post, I didn’t have a book about starting out as a young professional. As young as I was, I did some sort of Strategic Planning for my career. It could have been the beginnings of my life plan. I even came up with a list of 20 things I want to do with my life. Here’s a part of what I wrote back then.
I read somewhere that if you want to accomplish something, writing them down would help your mind crystallize it. So I did. My goal was to accomplish what I wrote within 5 years. If I graduated from College within four years, I knew that I could certainly accomplish my goals within five years. What could possibly go wrong?
Looking back, I was so, so, overly idealistic! Yeah, plans really change, sometimes, they change drastically as you live your life. But let’s save that for another post, shall we?
My father surprised me one Sunday afternoon. As soon as he arrived home from a Council meeting at the church, he told me to prepare my resume and he’ll submit it to the Council Chairperson of the church, who also happens to be a member of the Board of Eveland Christian College. Did I mention that the church and the college was right in front of the house we were staying at? I’ll just take about 30 steps and I’d be there.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach or not. Besides, I didn’t really have any education units. But I had extra English units in College. You see, when I considered shifting to Creative Writing in my second year, I took several English subjects as cognates.
Since I had no other lead for a job, I simply went along with my father’s suggestion. Printed my resume and handed it to my father.
You gotta give it to my father. He was probably proud of his son, being a UP graduate and all that. I bet, he wasn’t really proud of my grades.
But it’s what I have.
The Council chairperson of the church spoke to me. Then he forwarded my resume to the administrator at the school. They scheduled me for demo teaching, had two more interviews.
By the end of May 2003, I landed my first job — High School English teacher and College instructor.
This is it. I’m finally starting to change the world. What better way to change the world than to shape the minds and hearts of young people?
First Salary & Several other Firsts
As I wrote in Part 1 of this series, I didn’t really think about getting rich right after college. So it might not be a surprise for you to know that my first salary was P4,000!
You have to keep in mind that this was 2003. The minimum wage back then was between P8,000 and P9,000 in the city. In the province, the minimum wage was probably around P6,000.
Besides, the school was right in front of our house. I didn’t have any travel cost. My food was “on the house” literally. And I didn’t really need to give any money to my parents. I was single. I didn’t need money for dates since I didn’t have a girlfriend then. That amount was really all mine.
It was the perfect arrangement for me at the time.
Still, even back then P4,000 per month was barely enough for employees with families. As I went through my teaching job that year, I saw the payslip of some of my co-teachers. Some of them have take-home pay of P200! Geez. If you are married and have children that depend on you, how could you survive on that?
The cycle of debt is very much a reality for teachers–both in the public and private schools.
Since my money was all mine, I started buying several stuff. I got my first phone–a Nokia 3210. Got my first computer: a second-hand PC I bought from a UP KAISA org-mate. Finally, I was already making the transition to the technologies of the new generation.
Thanks to one of the members in the church, they gave us a pet dog, which we named Spot. So every afternoon, I would hangout in front of our house, buy a Caramel-flavored Moby snack, then try to teach my dog some tricks.
Falling in Love with Teaching
It wasn’t that difficult to teach basic tricks to our pet dog. It’s slightly more difficult to teach tricks to my students. I was teaching English to 1st year and 4th year High School students. The school also had a few college students, so I was also tasked to teach English to them.
A lot of people kept asking what a young UP graduate like me was doing in the province. They said that I could have gotten way better opportunities with higher levels of salary in the big city.
But I was undaunted. While this teaching job was almost coincidental for me, I knew that I could survive and even enjoy the job.
I loved teaching and interacting with students but I wasn’t really thrilled with all the other things I needed to do. Lesson plan. Checking papers and exams. Ugh. I also have to read the stuff they wrote in the journal I required them to keep. I didn’t ask them to write five pages, though, just two pages of a standard size notebook. Crazy right?
Since it helped me a lot, I was passing on the legacy of keeping a journal to my students. I also initiated a rule for them to practice speaking in ONLY in English during our subject. I also offered to lend them some of my books for their reading enjoyment.
I also enjoyed spending time with them and listening to their stories, dreams, and struggles. Several times, I was also driven to shed some tears over some of their struggles within their families.
A few years after my teaching stint, some of my former students contacted me and thanked me for helping them be better at their English subject. Several of them even took English as their College major. I must have been somewhat effective.
This is what makes the teacher’s job worth it no matter how difficult, thankless, and underpaid it is. I would have continued teaching and spending time with these young people.
Second Thoughts and Transitions
Teaching was awesome. But several other things were also happening in the life of our family. My sister got married in October 2003. She was in her third year in College. It was a bit unexpected. My father planned to move to Manila to help my sister and her husband with their new life while they continued college.
That also meant my mother, my brother and I were moving back to San Manuel, Isabela–our adopted hometown. You see, as part of a Pastor’s family in the United Methodist Church, we didn’t really have a house of our own. We stayed at the parsonage of whatever church that my father was assigned to. My mother couldn’t go with my Papa to Manila because she couldn’t leave her job as a public High School teacher in San Manuel. So we needed to rent a house there.
If I continued my teaching job, it meant traveling for 30-40 minutes everyday from San Manuel to San Mateo. It also meant buying my own lunch at work. Around P800 would go to my transportation, P900 would be for my lunch, and of course, I would need extra money for communication and other incidental expenses. It meant that by the end of the month, my take home pay would only be around P2,000.
By the summer of 2004, I started thinking about my long-term plan. If I wanted to keep teaching, I would need to take 18 units of Education and get my license as a teacher. That level of salary severely limited my options.
By May 2004, we moved to San Manuel, Isabela and I decided not to renew my contract. Again, I found myself not knowing what to do.
All the same, I had good intentions. I knew that I wanted to make a difference in our province. Not renewing my contract was but a glitch in my overall plan. I didn’t yet know what I would do next.
But I knew that soon enough, I’ll figure it out.
At that time, I decided to stay home, explore opportunities, and live off the kindness of my mother and father. Thank God for supportive parents!
I was giving myself a few months, I knew I would start making a difference. Little did I know that my waiting time would be extended, and that I would be making significant changes to my direction.