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Change can start in the workplace

TEACHABLE MOMENTS - Jose Claro (The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2013 - 12:00am

Guess what my office had for its Christmas party? Jollibee! Two pieces of Chickenjoy, to be exact. But no one was complaining. After all, almost everybody at work had been sent to Samar, Leyte, and Panay, and saw the extent of the devastation there. We knew there was nothing to complain about.

It’s something one doesn’t always see at work. At the school where I teach part-time, my broadcast journalism students were working on a story about how their school shunned off the traditional Christmas party for the benefit of the Yolanda victims. They had wanted to interview and get their teachers’ reaction, but the ones they approached turned them down because they really wanted a full-scale Christmas party. I’m sure not all the teachers shared the same sentiment, but in almost any office in the country, there was likely someone who complained why there was no lechon, or no raffle or no bonuses even after having just received a 13th month (or more) salary.

It’s not the first time I’ve felt proud of my colleagues for making socially responsible decisions. Just a few weeks ago, we were challenged by our director not to content ourselves with donating and volunteering but to do something more for the people of Leyte. My colleague who headed the project, Jen Dominguez, eagerly responded to the call and decided to have some small relief operations for a remote town that has not been prioritized by government or non-government organizations due to lack of media exposure. In just two weeks, she was able to partner with the Philippine Normal University and get commitment from the premier educational institution to send 1,000 goods to Tanauan, Leyte. A week later, she was able to get the support of the International Peace Youth Group and Gawad Kalinga to raise an additional 500 goods. Finally, the Philippine Post Office agreed to ship the goods for free from Manila to Cebu. 

But what seemed to be a noble project supported by everyone soon turned burdensome. Jen had requested for a P100K budget to transport the goods (via plane, truck, and ship) from Manila to Cebu and then to Ormoc. Understandably, our heads disapproved the proposal on the ground that it was more practical for the money to be donated to the victims.

Undaunted, she obeyed the decision but tried to look for ways to ensure she would see the project through. She wrote a letter to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and, after using her charm and wit, was able to secure the support of a kind officer who agreed to lend army trucks and a naval boat en route to Leyte. 

A half-hearted person would have simply given up when faced with the logistical nightmare of transporting 1,500 goods from Manila to Leyte with practically no budget, but Jen would have none of it. After the relief operations, she was rewarded with kilometers of people lined up at the sides of the streets brimming with gratitude as they waved goodbye at us.

After spending weeks traveling to and from the Visayas, our experience at work was appropriately capped off when all of us received a token from our executive director. It was a plain wooden signboard containing the engraved word: Simplify. After our last day at work, I stared at the sign and it reminded me of what my liberation theology teacher kept hammering on us: To simplify means to be content with what one has so that others may have more.

Back to our merienda cena, the office was abuzz with the usual laughter and occasional ribbing. Some exchanged gifts, others posed but all enjoyed each other’s company. It didn’t matter after all if our merienda was ordered from Jollibee or prepared by some fancy caterer. Everything ends up in a digested mulch anyway and a Chickenjoy with extra rice can stuff one’s stomach as well as a lechon or lengua. What cannot be replaced, however, was being in the company of good people believing that every small act of sacrifice is a consistent gesture that our office is bent on serving the country first and foremost.

With or without Yolanda, our country needs all of its well-to-do people to live simply so that their poor kababayans may simply live. May the New Year gift us with the blessing of realizing that the good life can only be experienced when we place ourselves at the service of others. 

 

 

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES CEBU CHICKENJOY INTERNATIONAL PEACE YOUTH GROUP AND GAWAD KALINGA JEN DOMINGUEZ JOLLIBEE LEYTE MAY THE NEW YEAR PHILIPPINE NORMAL UNIVERSITY PHILIPPINE POST OFFICE
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