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‘Ako si Ate’

Last Jan. 15, I decided to give myself a gift. I bought an iPod Touch and paid P12,500 in cash. I gave the cashier 25 pieces of P500 bills.

But then I felt awful. I felt guilty and considered returning the iPod and getting my money back. Why? It is because “Ako si Ate.” I knew the money would go a long way if I gave it to my parents.

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My mother is a “job-order” worker in our municipal hall. So for her it’s  “no-work, no-pay,” which is why she accepts evening assignments and works even on Saturdays to make both ends meet for our family.

My father is a V-Hire driver. There are hundreds of drivers like him in our town, so no one can expect to make a round trip every day. Sometimes my father doesn’t earn anything for two or three days.

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This then is the picture: My parents do not have stable jobs. I am a teacher earning good pay.

Last May after the summer classes ended at the Ateneo de Manila University where I was studying for my master’s degree, I decided to go home. What greeted me was a house without electricity.

A few days later, I got a text message from my younger sister asking for her weekly allowance. My little brother pleaded with me to buy him a stroller bag because he has to bring more than 10 books and 10 notebooks to school every day. And then my parents told me they needed to repay a P15,000 debt.

Being the eldest in the family is a tall order. But still it can be rewarding.

Taking the challenge, or should I say the calling, of being the eldest has taught me many valuable lessons, lessons that helped me become the person that I am right now.

The learning process has not been smooth and painless. Every day I feel like a pencil being sharpened to perfection. Every day I feel like a sword being placed over fire and hammered to excellence. But I do not regret it. It is making me better. It is making me more compassionate and understanding.

When my parents told me about their big debt, I was shocked and disappointed. I said to myself, “Ay naku, parang mas mahirap magpalaki ng parents.”

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But when I think of the sacrifices they have made and continue to make to send us to school, I am filled with admiration and gratitude. I cannot hope to equal their efforts and their love for me and for my siblings. And I love them more for it.

I have become a happy giver. After buying the stroller bag, Mama called me to say that my little brother was ecstatic. It is his dream bag and it has made him even more excited to go to school. And he is motivated to study harder because he has been told that his Ate would reward him if he is diligent.

I do not pressure him to excel in his studies. I just want him to achieve his dreams and have a good, happy life.

But being the eldest can be difficult.  Sometimes, it sucks your energy. Once I confessed to a priest that I was getting tired of helping and even loving my family. He advised me not to teach my family to be so dependent on me. An Indian nun told me I also have a life to live and I should leave something for myself.

They are right. But everything will come in their due time. I guess I am not ready to let them go. I love them too much to do that.

So I try as much as possible to strike a balance. I save a little for myself but I continue to help my family. That is why, I kept the iPod Touch without any guilt.

Marnie Demetria Racaza, 23, is a teacher at Saint Theresa’s College-Cebu.

Disillusioned

By Guia Ty

I finished my studies in a college known as “the factory of teachers.” I have taught in several prestigious schools, all of which paid measly salaries. But that was better than earning nothing, better than being jobless, which I am now.

The past month was tough. I patiently applied to different schools for a teaching position. I am qualified to teach in college, since I have my master’s, but I can’t find a job. Out of desperation, I even tried to apply as a grade school teacher, but I still didn’t get a job.

People would think that, given my credentials, it’s easy to land a job. I can teach, I communicate well, I write well, and I have other skills that can serve me well in some non-teaching jobs. But why am I unemployed?

There are many schools near our home, but no vacancies.  There were some vacancies in Metro Manila, but the salary they offered would hardly cover my daily expenses. There were also other job openings, but the requirements did no match my qualifications.

I have to work for a living and save for my future. My mother is 59, and when she retires next year, the burden of making a living will fall on me.

I have been mulling things over for weeks. I keep watching the news, I read newspapers, and I regularly check job postings on the Internet. I found a few suitable jobs, but I was never called for an interview. I tried applying for secretarial and office jobs, but still no reply. I even tried applying to a call center, but I was told I was not qualified to be a call center agent.

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I find a job? I don’t have enough money to go to Manila and look for a job.

Should I blame it on the government which cannot provide jobs for its citizens? Why are most jobs contractualized to justify the low pay?

Should I blame it on schools? What standards have they set for someone to qualify to teach? Should I have studied in a prestigious school?

Should I blame myself for choosing this profession? Or should I just stop blaming anyone or anything at all?

I am sure I am not alone. Many young adults out there must be feeling the same way. We all dream of having a rewarding career, a stable family and a happy life. We want a better and more secure future.

But we are disillusioned. In college we were told that finding a job was hard, but in reality it is much harder. There was a time in our lives when we believed we could find good-paying jobs or even perfect jobs. But that rarely happens. We dream of successful careers, but reality crushes our dreams.

But we should never lose hope. We should just keep trying to find a job. And we should strive to improve ourselves in the meantime.

The government should find a way to help young professionals like me. Our schools cannot continue turning out graduates who end up unemployed.

Guia Ty, 24, is a licensed teacher and has a master’s degree in linguistics. She is also an artist.

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