Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Brighter Pastures

I’ve been in my new job for three weeks or so, and so far, so good.

I got the shock of my life on my first day when I was given the HR orientation and the first presentations were all about Christian values and business ethics. They have regular masses and prayer meetings. They had an essay-writing contest on ‘the true meaning of the Eucharist for me’. They have a chaplain’s room where you can go for confession or counseling. The first value in their values statement is faith. They don’t like to use the word ‘exploit’ bcoz it’s too negative and should be changed to ‘leverage’ or ‘maximize’. The areas in their Nueva Ecija farm (where I went to as part of my orientation) were known as ‘Isaiah 43’ or ‘James 5’ or ‘Psalm 23’.

Nothing wrong with that at all – it’s a good thing, definitely – but it’s just such a major switch from all the other companies I’ve worked in. It’s like being back in a Catholic school. It’s like being in holy land.

Of course, all my friends had the time of their lives making fun of me and how I have to behave and keep my horns at an all-time low in an office like this. Well, I don’t mind being the most maldita person in the office. I could add it as another feather in my cap – up there with Most Ditzy or Most Susceptible to Foot-in-Mouth Disease. (Ha ha.)

I’m happy. So far, all my reasons for moving have been proven right. The big boss is really kind and my boss is not only smart and kind but also truly hot. (Ha ha.) He has great potential to overtake M as my favorite boss of all time. (As if all these bosses exist just to get into my stupid lists. Ha ha.) The office is only 10 minutes away from home. The first time I got home before 5:30 PM, Yoshi and Boots jumped up and down and could not believe their eyes. (This is so timely, too, bcoz Yoshi has just started Grade 1 and has nosebleed subjects like Geometry and Geography and almost daily homeworks and weekly quizzes, so we’re both pretending to be good and studying his lessons every friggin night. Groan.) There’s a lot of legal work and there are many other things MIB (my imaginary boyfriend) wants me to get involved in – corporate governance, risk management, blah blah. Which means – hey, I’m needed here, and wanted, too. Which is exactly what I wanted to feel in the office bcoz it was sorely missing in my former one. (Ha ha.)

The people have also been good to me. (It’s an HR requirement for everybody to be good. Ha ha.) I especially love my staff bcoz they are all so efficient and resourceful and helpful to me. They make it easy for me to be their boss. It’s pure serendipity that the secretary assigned to me, Anji, has this reputation of being the only rank-and-filer in the office who dares to stand up to anybody, including the executives. Gosh. We are so MFEO (meant for each other). Ha ha.

Plus, they gave me the Captiva on my first week. We promptly christened it ‘Piolo’. Surname: Pascual. Ha ha. Needless to say, Ches is happy driving around in his new SUV, at zero cost to the (inexistent) family coffers.

I also like it that when the head of HR toured me around the office, he introduced me to the janitor and the Xerox guy and everybody. He knew them all by name. A far cry from my last office where the executives do not even know the names of the managers and only ever mingle with people in the same rank. (So snooty.)

And the food in the canteen is cheap and glorious. When MIB interviewed me, I asked if they had a union and he said no, the employees never put up a union in the 63 years the company has been around. He joked that maybe they were happy, maybe it’s the food in the canteen. And it turned out not to be a joke – the canteen food is indeed cheap and glorious (or did I already say that?). And there I was telling Ches I’ll embark on this grand change of image plan in my new office, part of which will involve me not eating too much in front of office mates so I don’t get this reputation of being a glutton unlike in all the other three offices I’ve worked in. But the canteen food is too good and I always end up buying two or three ulam at a time. Groan.

On the down side, they’re super strict about the attendance. So even when I went to Nueva Ecija and everybody knew where I was and that I was doing something legitimately work-related, Anji had to fill up an official business pass form for me, anyway. It’s part of the whole honesty and integrity in the workplace thing, I think. Which, like I said, is definitely a good thing, but for me it’s uh-oh. Goodbye, fictional visits to the SEC. (I can’t even pretend to be visiting PSE bcoz they’re not listed. Groan.) Goodbye, sick leaves due to LBM when I’m actually in a mall sale somewhere. Goodbye, not even bothering to tell the boss when I spend the whole morning in Mayfield for some school activity or the other. Goodbye, happy days.

Oh, and I’m sure there are many other down sides I have yet to see, as in any company. This early I’ve already listed certain characters in my to-avoid list. (Ha ha.) But I’m thinking, as long as MIB is nice to me and I get to go home early and Ches gets to drive Piolo and I receive my salary every 15 days – then I have no reason not to be happy.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Moving On

SM was the longest goodbye ever.

I’ve made up my mind to leave as early as April, but then I wanted to wait until Regina got regularized end of May before abandoning him. (I owed him that much. I got him into SM, after all.) So that was almost two months of being in resigned mode and acting all tragic and weepy for the slightest reason. (I cried if I so much as heard 'Journey', for example.)

The first time I truly doubted the wisdom of my decision to leave was when the Scorecard results came out. I was happy that we did so well, much more than any of us ever expected, but I was also sad bcoz I won’t be around anymore to continue what I started. And then there were all the bosses who offered me all of these tempting deals to make me reconsider. One of the things that broke my heart was when Mr. S called me to his office, and he presumed I had decided to stay bcoz I was smiling when I entered the room, and he proceeded to discuss with me what my new jobs would be like in the REIT companies and the executive office, and then I had to stop him and say I had made up my mind to leave. Owww. It’s never easy to say no to an old man like that.

It’s just my luck too that the Scorecard awards dinner had to take place on my third to the last day in the office. So then I had to parry all these questions about my leaving from SM bosses, former Ayala bosses, and old friends from the corporate governance circle. In the same event, The Owner in so many words apologized to me for cutting too short the speech I drafted. And Mon gave me a hug and said he was proud of me for my feat in SM. So then I ended up crying and crying – with Thom (who fortunately for me also attended), Ches (who was too obsessed with his monster TV that he got Ryan to bring in from Singapore to truly empathize with my dramas), and Regina (who I would subsequently found out was in the middle of an all-important activity when I called him). (This whole SM thing made me realize something about myself: that when people are mean to me, I fight back, but when they’re nice, I cry and cry. How weird is that.)

I cried too when friends who learned about my leaving texted or called to show their support. Gay said she wasn't surprised I could leave behind all that money and glamor, and my decision smacked of 'the Jo I've known since college'. Randy also agreed it was only right for me to up and leave, bcoz 'hindi lahat ng araw sinuswerte ang mga giants'. Owww.

And there were all my office friends who were so kind and took me to lunch practically every day of my last two weeks. Teh and I had lunch twice and she was so nice and told me I was her favorite among the group bcoz she always felt that she could trust me with everything she told me. She was also part of the group (with Ianne, Cora, Malou and Pepee) that took me to Sofitel where the lunch buffet is (literally) to-die-for and even includes foie gras (among other snooty stuff, and I have my fill of everything as usual ha ha ha). Cecille, Ruby and Mila took me to HK Emperor (my favorite new Chinese resto in MoA). Sherry, Dette and I (and Auds was with us in spirit) tried Tajiyama, the new Japanese eat-all-you-can barbecue chicken and beef place. Monette and I went to Guernica and Red Mango, our usual dessert hang-out. We also went out with Nita before she went on vacation. Monette and Teh even gave me going-away gifts. On my last day, I took Regina and Lani to Abe, which has been among my favorites since my Serendra days in MWC.

The thing with SM was, I never expected that I would be so sad leaving. Regina was right – it feels like it’s still too early to leave. On my last Friday, this lawyer came to see me and introduced herself and wished me well. We would always smile at each other in the office but we never even got to talk until that last Friday. Owww. And then Lani prepared this book for me with notes from everyone. It was so, so heartening to know that all these staff whom I’ve barely worked with, they appreciated it when I smiled at them or chatted them up, and they said all these other nice stuff which came from I don’t know where. (It really does take so little to touch people and make them happy.) So of course I ended up making a puddle again on the floor after reading all their letters. (And I made a mental note never again to schedule my last day in any office on a day other than Friday, so that I have at least the weekend to recuperate from all the drama.)

I will miss riding to and from work with Ches. Fitness First. Mall of Asia (as its tag line goes, no other mall comes close). All the shops. All the restos. All right beside the office and waiting for me with open arms whenever I feel like going, any given time of the day. The SLA sales (up to 70% off on Crocs, Havaianas, perfume, cosmetics, watches, designer shades - you name it, they’ve got it all). Manila Bay. The yachts in the morning. The fishermen's boats. The waves. The daily sunset extravaganza from my window. The perennial breeze that makes you hold on tight to your skirts or your whole womanhood will be exposed.

I will miss all my friends. Lani and Regina most of all. Lani with her riot stories about her family or the people in the office or whatever. Who was always more than just a secretary to me and comforted me when I felt bad at work for some reason or the other. We shared 1.5 years worth of office adventure and got along so well bcoz we were both so maldita. I will miss the food that she rations me with every morning and the occasional Clinique or Mac make-up from her sisters abroad. She has been tearing up for months since I told her I was leaving. I will always love her dearly. I almost stayed in SM bcoz of her and Regina.

Regina deserves an entire blog altogether. I like to joke that we have a love-hate relationship – he loves me (bcoz he needs me to regularize him) and I hate him. Ha ha. He's in that category of friends with whom I always bicker about some small or major thing or the other. It can get pretty draining, but for the most part it's loads of fun to be forever on my toes in search of something to say to put him down. Ha ha.

He says we get along well bcoz we are alike in many ways – we're both obscene, nasty, self-absorbed, and overbearing. And my reaction was: we get along? Ha ha. I'm just glad he and Ches are best buddies, so then even if we no longer work together, I'd still get to see and torment him, hopefully on a regular basis. Ha ha.

One of the things I will miss most is him going in my room, taking his seat across my desk, and pouring out his whole life before me – uninvited, unsolicited, just like that. And he does this only about, oh, 60 million times in a span of one day. In his note in Lani's book, he wrote that with me, he got to experience what having an Ate was really like. Owww. This is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever told me this year.

Sigh. I guess it's one of the immutable facts of life, that no matter how old you get, no matter how tough you think you've become – goodbyes will never be easy.