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Ortigas Center
7:37 PM

Freak out, give in
Doesn’t matter what you believe in
Stay cool, and be somebody’s fool this year.

– Smashing Pumpkins, “Cherub Rock”

I sometimes think of Ortigas and Makati as inspiring places.  Ten months ago, when I first stepped into this world, I was awed at the sight of tall buildings and office condominiums.  To be dwarfed by these towering glass-paned structures was enough motivation for you to be lucky you’re here.

Yet the longer I stayed here, the more and more I’m reminded of an abyss.  It’s one thing to be awed at the sight of these things when you’re down below, but it’s way different when you’re up above.  Those glass panes reflect the sky from down below, but reflect asphalt when from up above.  It’s a rat race, a bunch of souls who have given up and just trudge through the labyrinth day by day, fighting a Minotaur for eight hours a day, five days a week.

It’s hard to hear of people who get retrenched, downsized, reengineered, optimized, streamlined, laid off… people who are your friends, statistics in some report, and even people from half a world away who lose their jobs because of the global economic crisis.  It’s never a good feeling, knowing how tenuous all this could be.  It’s never a good feeling, knowing that as much as you want to, you can’t do anything about it.

My friends, and lately, my father, have kept on convincing me about one thing, though: “Marck, you’re not Batman.”

It’s not an issue of hair breakage because of too much stress, where I have to look at the tile floor and be dismayed at the sight of broken hair strands.  It’s the kind of burdened and overbearing guilt that came with looking at all these people who lost their livelihood, just like that.  Layoffs are part and parcel of the world of business; it’s either you’re in it, or you’re out of it.  It’s either you’re needed, or you’ve outlived your use.

I guess that’s the reason why they call it “Human Resources.”

I’m reminded of my childhood where I always looked up to superheroes, wondering when they will come to save the day.  Somehow, I lived in this fantasy world where the Justice League will smite evil and uplift good.  Somehow, I continually bank on the inherent goodness of people not only to do something with their lot in life, but also with the lot of other people’s lives as well.  Somehow, I continually bank on the belief that people are empathetic and concerned about others, that this isn’t a dog-eat-dog reality that we live in.  That we all can, in our own way, be Batman.

Sadly, that isn’t so.  If you keep your job, you let out a big sigh and try your best to be genuinely sorry for others… but not without your “whew” moment.  If you lose your job, you look at all sorts and signs of conspiracies, or blame yourself for everything.  You try to be optimistic, even if you’re not certain to get gainful employment anytime soon.

People lose their jobs all the time, and I have to accept the reality that there’s nothing permanent in this world, much less a job.  One day, I’ll lose mine too, and the sooner I accept that, the easier I would be on myself when the time comes that I have to go.  My dad calls it “destiny,” my friends call it “greener pastures.”  It’s a matter of banking on the positive side of getting retrenched, that there’s always “something better” waiting out there: a hope for the best.

It may sound illogical, but the reality isn’t necessarily the truth.  Reality changes all the time, but the truth remains the same no matter what happens.  I’m too sympathetic, too empathic, too concerned with jobless people walking around business districts with brown envelopes hoping to get a job soon and fast.

There’s an oversupply of workers in companies that demand less and less employees.  People get retrenched not because they’re lazy or because they do something stupid, but because big business is sorely lacking in heart and soul.  Big business is not a human being; it is an entity.  It is blameless because as a non-human entity, it has no need for conscience.  Walang personalan, trabaho lang: never mind that you’re dealing with people here who just so happen to do work.

If I don’t like it so much, maybe I could just get out and be the superhero I expect.  Maybe I could don a mask and a cape and fly over the central business districts, and be the hero of BPO workers and call center agents all over the world.  Yet that can’t happen; I have a job to do.  I have to hang on.  I have to write, or die.

This time, things have to be different; now that the hardest working team of writers is going to go away, I’ll have to step up to the plate and be the hardest working writer in Ortigas Center.  All of this is for them, and just as importantly… all this is for myself.

I’ll have to be my own superhero in the superheroic task of keeping my job.

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