A Filipino worker’s tale
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2018 - 12:00am

This is a story of an ordinary Filipino worker, perhaps one that is echoed by millions of others in this country. It was dated April 20 and must have arrived at my office through slow mail while I was away for my annual sabbatical leave.

It would have been more fitting for a First of May Day column feed, to commemorate the spirit of the Filipino working man. But his story, fortunately, knows no time constraints and because of this, we have allotted space.

The hand-written letter on yellow ruled pad was in Filipino. We have taken the liberty to translate and liberally edit. Please read on.

“I am Elias V. Dioquino, 74 years old, residing in Taytay, Rizal.

“I read your column in The Philippine Star last April 12 and from the address written below your column, I thought of sharing with you my past and present life, and from this, the kind of governments we had before and now.

“When I was younger, I was employed by Philippine Blooming Mills, an iron smelting company that produced nails. Philippine Blooming Mills then was the 19th biggest company in the country.

“I was with the Philippine Blooming Mills for already about a year when Martial Law was declared. The company was doing well, and I was earning a lot from overtime work.

“Because of my good performance, I was promoted as a generator tender. My assigned duty shift was alternately from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for one week, then 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following week.

“I was in charge of four Waukesha generators that would automatically kick in and operate whenever there were Meralco brownouts. This ensured that the iron smelter continued operating without interruption.

OFW era

“Then, former president Ferdinand Marcos took over the Philippine Blooming Mills – for a song.

“During the construction of the Philippine International Convention Center for an international beauty contest, the Philippine Blooming Mills became the source of most of the iron bar used for the building works. This was when the Philippine Blooming Mills started to experience financial problems.

“The company had to borrow from the Philippine National Bank. There was a time when it could not even pay Meralco for its electricity bills, leading to its permanent disconnection from the power company. As a result, the mill’s own power house had to be operated 24 hours every day.

“Overtime pays were removed, and I was back to working shift hours. Many of us felt demoralized in the face of former president Ferdinand Marcos’ powers. Life became unbearably difficult for the one thousand-plus working then at the Philippine Blooming Mills.

“This was the time when overseas work became an option. Unfortunately, I was employed abroad in a small company, and therefore, was receiving a salary that was below what I was receiving during the heydays of the Philippine Blooming Mills.

“I was able to work abroad for 10 years, but there was nothing much saved by those at home who I sent the money I earned.

Back to homeland

“After my overseas stint, I took another local job, this time with LM Power Engineering. The company imports transformers from Germany, and we delivered the transformers to those who placed orders. Our work at LM Power was to install transformers which often weighed about 20 tons.

“I worked at LM Power for five years, from 1993 to 1998, but because I was a heavy drinker, I soon experienced shortness of breath and was having difficulty while working. I resigned.

“I applied for disability pension and was first given compensation for 22 months, and then for another 18 months. During this period, I experienced taking oral medicines for one year, followed by injections the next year. My disability pension at that time was P2,181 a month.

“This was during former president Joseph Estrada term, and during those years, our pension payout was increased three times to come up to P2,891 a month. Many pensioners will never forget former president Erap for this.

“During the term of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, corruption reared its ugly head again. It must be remembered that Angelo Reyes committed suicide during this time, maybe after knowing too much.

“Noli de Castro was originally doing well in politics, but eventually was swallowed by the rotten system.

“Recently, we received a pension increase of P1,000. I’m good for now.”

Rice self-sufficiency

Another reader, D. Dizon, chose to react to comments sent by other readers published in this column last April 17. Here are some parts:

“About four million farmers live on subsistence, and have to depend on usurers and traders who charge 30 percent interest rate for a five-month period. They cannot afford to apply the correct amount of fertilizer or apply pesticides if their farm has pest problems and diseases. The typical farmer cannot even fill up a bank’s simple questionnaire.

 “It does not need rocket science or investments in capital-intensive new irrigation systems, or expansion of new rice areas to be self-sufficient in rice.

“If 50 percent of our irrigated rice area will be planted with hybrid rice, and inbred planting will be done with certified seeds, the potential total yield per year would be about 25-26 million tons of unmilled rice at an average production cost of about P6.00 to P6.50/kg.

“Why subsidize Thai and Vietnamese farmers? Why not improve the lives of our poor farmers  and unchain them from the yoke of usurers and financiers.”

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us at www.facebook.com and follow us at www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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