Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Big Fish, Small Pond: Do What You Have To Do

So the second call center I went to is located inside a mall.

When I got to their recruitment area, I was asked to log in my application online, which, to me, was impressive. At least this office looks like they want to reduce their carbon footprint.

There weren't as many applicants here, perhaps due to the location. For the first interview, I was with 4 other applicants only. I breezed through it. Then we were brought into a room where we took several tests online. Then another interview over the phone with someone (I forget who), then I was asked to wait in the lobby.

A few minutes later, the HR woman who was taking us through the application process called me and two others back into her office. She told us we passed and that we were going to be given offer sheets. We signed the sheets, she took our photos (for our ID badges), gave us the number and address of the clinic for our physicals, and welcomed us into the company.

It was that easy. I entered the lobby at around 1:30 in the afternoon; before 7pm that night, I was already being offered a job. I thought, is it going to be this easy all throughout? That can't be, it's too good to be true. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And it did, in the form of our salary. We were offered less than what the Cubao center offered (they explained that the account was a seasonal one). At that salary rate, I could barely pay for my monthly car loan. I may need to do some sideline stuff (like freelance writing jobs) to augment my earnings as an agent.

I was mulling over things while driving home. Should I continue with this company, or apply to the Cubao center where Resourceful Douchebag TL invited me to join?

When I got home, I was browsing over the posts in my LinkedIn app, when I came across this post (apologies for not being able to attribute the writer; I can't find the post anymore):

* * * * *

“I just can’t get a job.” they say. I hear it all the time.
(I ordered a Dominos last night. They're hiring by the way.)
When my first business imploded...
I scaled back massively.
I took a job selling broadband.
I took a job delivering Indian takeaways.
I did whatever I had to, despite the massive ego drop.
Despite losing my S-Class and my flat.
Despite hearing “told you so” at every turn.
I had bills and obligations, so I got to work.
I kept my head down for a year, tidied my mess, and regrouped.
And then I got back on it. Harsh lessons learned.

When the shit hits the fan; you flip burgers, you clean floors, you stack shelves - you do what you must.

Agree or disagree?

* * * * *

Oh well. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. See you on the first day of training.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Step One: Recruitment

I knew that as an entry-level agent, I'll be earning a fraction of what I was getting in my previous job. Which was not a problem for me; I just needed some money coming in so that I have something for the car and insurance payments. Food? At home I eat for free. And I have no problem scaling back my dietary consumption. (Strangely, I also noticed that I easily get full these days. Was that just a product of aging? Or was that my consciousness convincing myself to save on food costs?) Transpo? I needed a job in a place near home--less traffic, less gas consumption; just worry about overnight parking fees.

The first call center I went to was located approximately 7-10 minutes away from the house. But when I inquired there, they told me recruitment was at their main office in Cubao. So off I went.

When I stepped into the lobby, there were many young kids filling out application forms and waiting for their turn. I also saw one or two "older" guys; we were the ones quietly waiting by our lonesome; everyone else had friends or batchmates with them. It's like they needed the comfort of the herd to navigate this jungle called recruitment. Meanwhile, us oldies were lone hunters, quietly eyeing our competition. Well, most of us anyway. I saw one guy, probably older than me, looked like he was in over his head. Later on, just before the group interview started, he excused himself to go to the bathroom; he never returned.

After a few minutes of waiting, they called around 18 of us, and we were herded into a conference room. The chairs were flushed against the wall; in the middle was a huge conference table with a desktop on it. We were asked to occupy the seats and wait for the interviewer to arrive.

While waiting, the young'uns started chatting among themselves. "Pang-ilang center mo na ito?" "Saan ka ba nag-apply before?" "Naku, hindi ako pumasa doon eh!" "Kinakabahan ako." There were two other oldies aside from me; one left for the bathroom and escaped before the interview, and one was a 40+ year old guy who had a confident air about him. The way he was assuring the first-timers and giving them tips, I assumed he had worked in several BPOs before.

The two interviewers, a guy and a lesbian, came in. I thought both were fresh graduates--they looked so young! It didn't help that the taller of the two, the guy, looked like he can see eye-to-eye with Nora Aunor (whose height, so goes the joke, is 4'12"). The lesbian (yes she is, trust me, I'm not being judgemental!) was even shorter. I thought I was going to be interviewed by hobbits. (To be fair, the guy was too much of a twink to be a hobbit; he was also quite cute, and when I say cute, I mean "let's play with him like a toy" cute.)

Then they started talking to us. You know, before I applied to call centers, I used to hate Filipinos who'd put on this American twang or accent. Such a put on, such pretentiousness! But the more I saw the inner workings of a BPO, the more I realized that they were just doing their jobs. They're talking to Americans, and Americans have a hard time understanding someone speaking in English if they didn't have that familiar twaye-ng or aye-k-scent. (Eventually when I was on the floor, I noticed myself putting on a bit of that accent, depending on the caller.)

It made sense why the initial interview had to be a big group; with the number of applicants, Recruitment needed a quick way to trim off the ones who will have a hard time speaking and expressing themselves in English.

Oompa-Loompa Cutie wlecomed us, and introduced his fellow HR staffer, Oompa-Loompa Tibs, who busied herself at the computer typing God-knows-what during the whole process. We were asked to introduce ourselves, and say why we wanted to join that particular BPO. Then we were asked to pick a number corresponding to a question which we needed to answer, ala-Beaucon Q&A portion. I fought the urge to place my hands on my hips while answering.

When it came to me, I used my mother as the reason why I wanted to go into the BPO industry. "She's pushing 80 (a lie), so I went back to take care of her (another lie, but that one elicited a couple of "Awwws"), and now I needed a job near the house so I can be near her." My beaucon question was easy: "What do you do for recreation?" I mentioned watching theater (yeah right, show them how elitist I am!) and movies, and in the process gave a 5-minute review that compared and contrasted Justice League with Thor: Ragnarok ("JL isn't that bad, but DC's still finding its way; meanwhile, Marvel's got the superhero genere down pat, and now they're pushing its boundaries").

Needless to say, pasok ako sa finals.

Interestingly, while waiting for the rest to finish their turn, the 40+ year old guy who sat beside me (I should have picked up on that immediately) started whispering to me.

Him: "First time mo bang mag-call center?"

Me: "Uh-huh."

Him: "Alam mo ba kung magkano ino-offer nila dito?"

Me: "Uhm, 16 yata? Yun yung narinig ko."

Him: "Magaling ka eh. Apply ka sa kabila, doon puwede kang kumita ng 20 agad."

Wait a minute. What did he say?

Me: "Sa kabila?"

Him: "Pagkatapos dito, sama ka sa akin. Di ko tatapusin itong recruitment dito. Mas malaking sahod sa kabila, doon ka na."

It turned out the guy is already a Team Leader (fondly called TL) in another BPO down the street. His account was currently in a low-traffic period, so most of the members of his team were on Voluntary Time Off (they can be absent, but they don't earn anything). Apparently he was using his idle time to check out if there are greener pastures for him to move to, and at the same time, see if he can pirate applicants to go to his company. What a douchebag, but what a resourceful douchebag.

When I mentioned during my Q&A that I wanted to be posted in their Marikina office, Oompa-Loompa Tibs butted in, "Sorry, our Marikina office does not have an opening right now, are you okay with working in Cubao or in our Alabang office instead?" Of course I immediately replied, "Oh sure Cubao is fine," but what I really wanted to say was, "Naiintindihan ko pa yung Marikina to Cubao, pero Marikina to Alabang araw-araw?! Ano ka, kundoktora sa isang Alabang-Novaliches bus?!"

I knew I had to apply to another BPO.

Fortunately, one of the millennial bagets approached me and said, "Naghahanap ka sa may Marikina? May alam ako, sa Antipolo lang nga, pero malapit pa rin sa Marikina. May openings doon."

Ayun. (sings) "Tayo naaaa... sa Antipolo!"

Saturday, January 13, 2018

In The Beginning: Biting The Bullet

Around the third quarter of 2016, I handed my resignation letter to HR. I was leaving the network I called home for nearly 7 years.

If you're planning on moving to another company, apply during the early part of the year. Most people will tell you December is the worst month to look for a job, because instead of hiring, HR is busy with office Christmas parties. I should know. I've gone through 3 Christmases wherein my gift was, "Next time na lang, ha?" to all my loved ones.

Luckily, by March 2017 I got a job at a small agency for events and advertising. I thought going back to advertising would be fun. Instead, six months later, I was again handing in a resignation letter. But this time, even before went to HR, I was already applying left anf right, here and abroad.

Sadly, I found out that people of my age and level of experience will have a harder time moving companies. There's less vacancies, naturally.

So when December 2017 came around, I had to bite the bullet. I had bills to pay. I needed a job that was in or near Marikina (since I moved back home). And I needed one fast.

Only one industry I knew fit the bill.

And that's how I came to be a call daddy.

Friday, July 21, 2017

See This Movie

After watching Kita Kita last night, I predict that it will be a modest sleeper hit among Pinoy audiences who automatically lap up romantic hugot films, TV commercials, and songs. We are a hugot nation, after all.

Kita Kita (I See You) opens with Alessandra de Rossi as Lea, a Pinay who works as a tour guide in Sapporo, Japan, who goes temporarily blind. A Filipino neighbor, Tonyo, comes over to make friends with her. Eventually he slowly woos her. Empoy Marquez plays Tonyo with just the right light touch, striking a careful balance between charming and trying too hard.

It is largely to the credit of the two leads that their cute-meet and the eventual development of their relationship are mostly engaging and believable. On-screen, the two share an easy chemistry that works; in fact, a woman behind me muttered to her friend, “Shet, kinikilig yata ako!

The movie upends the usual romantic clichés by replacing them with another cliché. In this rom-com, it’s possible for a pretty woman like Lea to end up with a guy like Tonyo because love is (temporarily) blind.

In true rom-com fashion, the audience assumes that the true test of whether Lea really loves Tonyo will be when Lea regains her eyesight and sees Tonyo for the first time. (In a previous scene, when she tries to “see” what he looks like by tracing his face with her fingers, she says, quite confidently, “Ang guwapo mo siguro,” to which Tonyo replies in an aside, “Bulag ka nga.”) Will she accept Tonyo, looks and all?

When her eyesight returns, he’s across the street from her. Everything is in slo-mo, she sees him, and smiles.

Then, bam!

At this point the movie does a 360, and we rewind to the start of Tonyo’s story. The movie shifts to his point of view, including a change in voice-over. There are surprises and revelations, and their love story becomes fuller when his part in it is plugged into the timeline.

But while writer-director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo does something unusual in Filipino rom-coms, this two-sides-of-a-story is actually a well-worn storytelling device that the Japanese and Koreans have almost mastered to a T. So while I smiled at the slightly-clunky-at-times but generally smooth execution by Sigrid, I can’t help but think, “been there, seen that.”

Still, I prefer to see our filmmakers stretching their wings and giving the viewing public something more than the usual fare. And for those who are tired of hugot rom-coms, here’s something that’s worth seeing.

Kita-kits tayo sa Kita Kita.

(Kita Kita is Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Almost A Month of PrEP

As a participant in the DOH study on PrEP, I’m required to keep a diary that records my PrEP intake as well as my sexual activities. This is what our diary looks like:

(Already, some people pounced on the words used in our diary. Instead of having “unprotected” sex, it should be “condom-less” sex, since having sex without a condom but while on PrEP means, technically, “protected” sex. They have a point.)

We’re also asked to take note if we experience any side effects while taking PrEP. Those taking PrEP have noted drowsiness. Others said they’ve had very lucid and psychedelic dreams. And some have experienced upset stomach in the first few days.

For me, I didn’t experience any drowsiness or psychedelic dreams. My stomach got upset easily, but Loperamide helped me get through those days.

But there was one curious effect on me that was totally unexpected.

While filling out my diary every morning (after taking my daily PrEP), I’d see all those checks on the top, and a row of empty, unchecked boxes on the bottom. They seemed to be mocking me—“Have you turned into a prude, McVie?!” Was I pressuring myself to put out, because of PrEP?

Entering my 20+ days on PrEP, I’ve only had sex 3 nights since June 26 (my first day on PrEP). Granted, one night was in a bathhouse, and the other two nights were organized orgies in hotel rooms. But still, 3 out of 20+ days is too low compared to the three-times-a-week bathhouse visits during my 30s and early 40s.

Ah well. Less sex, less likely to get infected, right?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Come On Guys, It's 2017

I am put off by parents—especially mothers—castigating Nadine Lustre when she answered, if she and boyfriend James Reid were living together, “I’m not gonna confirm, I’m not gonna deny. But then, ano naman (so what)? If that was true, so what? ‘Di ba, it’s not new anymore. Come on guys, it’s 2017.”

These parents feel that her home studio should retrain Nadine to answer properly such types of questions because they feel that little girls look up to her, and she should set a proper example.


First of all, Nadine is an adult at 23 years old.

Second, she’s an actress. She plays roles, not role models.

But ultimately, if there’s anyone responsible for how children should or shouldn’t act, it’s the parents. Why should parents abdicate their responsibilities to a total stranger? Nadine isn’t here to teach people how to behave. She’s not even herself when you see her onscreen.

Sure, there are a few exceptions, like Emma Watson, for example. But the fact that they’re exceptions only means that we lucked out with the likes of her. When she was chosen to play Hermione Granger, it was specified in her contract that she couldn’t behave in a manner unfitting for her character’s image—that’s the studio protecting their massively expensive assets. That she grew up an upstanding young woman is a welcome delight, not an expectation.

But ultimately it goes back to the parents. The showbiz world and its denizens do not owe you a favor by making your jobs as parents any easier. They’re your kids, they’re your responsibility—not Nadine’s.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A One Year PrEP Study

Sunday, 25 June 2017:

We go to TLY Anglo Clinic around lunchtime to get pre-screened and tested for PrEP Pilipinas’ “Project PrEPPY”. I signed up because I wanted to get into PrEP while at the same time contribute to the DOH’s yearlong study on PrEP in the Philippines.

During the screening, I find out that, for the first time, my blood pressure is high. “141… sir, matagal na bang mataas blood pressure n’yo?” the male nurse asks me. I am shocked. In all the annual corporate physical exams I took, my blood pressure has always stayed within normal levels. Well I am older, I haven’t been working out for more than 6 years now, and I don’t exactly follow a strict healthy diet. Still, it is a rude awakening. Part of me is still hoping the reading was an anomaly.

But thank goodness my blood pressure isn’t too high to boot me off the PrEP program.

By 4pm that afternoon, they hand me my PrEP diary, wherein I am to record my pill taking as well as any incidents that may expose me to the virus (in other words, any sexual dookit or pak ganern, I’m to record it). And then they give me my bottle containing 30 PrEP pills.

Monday, 26 June 2017:

First day of PrEP; I decide to take it after eating an oatmeal breakfast. My PrEP counselor says I should take it on an empty stomach; but upon reading the literature, I find out that PrEP is best taken with meals, for better absorption.

The whole day goes by without anything out of the ordinary.

My mom cooks spaghetti for dinner, and I love her spaghetti. I eat too much and drink a little too much soda. That night I feel a little too gassy/burpy than usual, but I attribute that to my dinner splurge.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017:

PrEP after oatmeal breakfast, and I am off for work. By afternoon I’m feeling sleepier than usual, but I assume that’s because I lacked sleep the night before (playing, of all things, Candy Crush Soda).

I still feel gassy/burpy/bloated. I’m now wondering if it’s a side effect of PrEP.

* * * * *

In the pre-test screening, I was asked if the statement “PrEP encourages promiscuity” is true or false. I wanted to give a more nuanced answer, but my PrEPPY Counselor insisted I stick to the two one-word choices.

What I wanted to say was this.

I can’t answer for other people, because I can’t read their minds. But for me, taking PrEP isn’t a license to be promiscuous. If people want to be promiscuous, they will—and they’ll look for any excuse to justify their actions. If PrEP is a convenient excuse for them, then they’ll use it. As an excuse.

But promiscuity is not the more important concern. “Will PrEP encourage condom-less sex?” is the bigger issue. But even with this one, I’m not entirely convinced that the issue stops at condom-less sex.

I think ultimately condoms, safe sex, and PrEP all point to the essence of why we do what we do: What is our sense of responsibility, to ourselves and to other people? Do we take responsibility for our actions? Do we act responsibly or carelessly? And do we consider the effects of our actions on others?

It’s your choice whether you have protected sex or not. But do you take full responsibility for your choices? Are you willing to live with the consequences of going bareback with a total stranger—consequences to you and to your sex partner? And will you be gracious enough to allow your hook up to turn you down if he finds out that you’re not packing rubber?

Taking PrEP doesn’t mean that I’m allowing myself the luxury of letting my guard down and occasionally engage in condom-less sex “just because I can”. On the contrary, taking PrEP is about me taking responsibility for my (thank god still active) sex life. PrEP is an additional arsenal I can use in my quest to protect myself from HIV.

We acknowledge that we aren’t perfect; we occasionally make mistakes. Being infected with HIV has lifelong consequences. Wouldn’t it be nice to have protection for those times we do slip up and open ourselves to the possibility of infection?

Instead of encouraging me to be careless, PrEP reminds me every day, before I take the pill, that I should be careful out there.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Neutral Is For Pussies

Most of them are well-meaning Filipinos, and they justified their vote or, after he won, their giving him the benefit of the doubt with, “His heart is in the right place,” or “He really loves the country,” or “It’s time to try a change from the usual politicians”. This, despite his track record as the mayor of Davao, his outlandish, bigoted, and cavalier pronouncements, his refusal to show his bank account, and many more. They wanted to give the system a chance; they wanted to give the man that 16 million out of the 54 million possible voters chose in the last elections a chance.

Now most of them are just quiet. Or they’ve stuck to posting about their family, cats and dogs, or the latest movie they’ve seen.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Yesterday I Stopped Wearing My Ring

Almost three months after we broke up, I kept wearing my ring. My friend G noticed it and asked me if it was a manifestation of a subconscious desire on my part. My honest answer was that it was a manifestation of a physical need to have something on my finger. After almost six years, I’m so used to wearing a ring that, whenever I take it off, it felt weird. There were times before when I’d forget to wear it after taking a shower—after a few minutes I felt like something was off, like when your tongue feels around for a missing tooth. So I continued wearing the ring if only to shut up that nagging feeling of incompleteness.

Then yesterday morning after showering, I grabbed my ring but it slipped from my fingers. It landed on the floor and almost went into the drain. I looked at it and thought, “A few more inches and it’s bye-bye, ring.”

So I picked it up, went to my bedroom, and placed the ring inside my cabinet.

After that, I didn’t miss the ring on my finger at all.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Siya Ang Ma-Fillet, Hindi Ako!

I saw the guy before me order a fillet with rice, so when he left and it was my turn at the counter, I asked the female crew who was serving me:

Me: Miss, ano yung in-order niya? Chicken o fish? (pointing to the order of the guy as he walked away from the counter)

Crew: Fillet po.

Me: Oo nga, pero chicken ba yun o fish?

Crew: (insistent) Sir, fillet po.

Me: (pause) Alam ko fillet yun. Ang gusto ko malaman ay chicken ba o fish.

Crew: Oo nga sir. Fillet.

Me: (giving up) Fish fillet?

Crew: Hindi po. Iba pa po ang Fillet-O-Fish.

Me: (bingo!) So chicken siya.

Crew: Opo.


Monday, May 22, 2017

And So I’m Back…

…from outer space.

Upon entering a relationship—even when it became an open one—I never found the urge to go back to the place where “the thrill is in silence.” Perhaps it was too far. Perhaps the ubiquity of gay hook-up apps made it unnecessary. Whatever my reason or reasons were, the raid on CB by the police (twice, in fact) sealed its fate for me. I let my old membership card expire, and I didn’t bother renewing my membership.

It’s been almost six years since I last set foot in this place. The gym area and the TV room look the same. The stairs leading up to the second floor is the same, including the row lights placed on the banister. The second floor looks the same; even the bathroom looks the way it was 6 years ago.

But when the attendant showed me to my room, bingo! Aha, here’s something new. They now have a built-in drawer in side the bed. Inside the drawer is a huge plastic storage box, the kind you buy in SM. You can now store your valuables inside the plastic storage box, for added safety. I decided to stuff my clothes, wallet, and shoes inside the box.

The showers are still the same. The steam room though has been expanded—they ate up one shower stall to make room for the extension.

Up on the third floor, everything remained as I remembered it. The small free-for-all rooms, enough space for two guys to stand. The open-air smoking area. The dark room. Even the posters remained the same.

And even some people remained the same. “Hmmm, I remember him.” “Oh my, he still goes here?” “He looks familiar.” But there are also new faces; I wonder how many of them will turn out to be recurring new faces.

The second floor smoking area has become the choice area for those who want others to see them do it. Several times I saw it get crowded, a sure sign that a “show” was ongoing.

The music, thank goodness, is new. I mean, they still play wall-to-wall dance music, but at least they didn’t play any Gregorian monks chanting. (Oh wait, that was in Fahrenheit. Wrong bathhouse!)

Had a pretty straightforward hook up—nothing out of the ordinary, nothing blog-worthy.

Who knows, maybe next time, I encounter another polio victim. Fingers crossed!