There were 11 swivel chairs intended for the procurement team of the company that I work for, but today, only one was filled — mine. There were supposed to be three, but my other two colleagues just rendered their last day at work the previous day, marking the finality of their service to the company. They are among the thousands of Filipinos who lost their jobs during the pandemic, and all I could do was stare at their empty tables.
The news broke out a week before their last day at work. They were informed that because of the pandemic, the company had lost a significant amount of income, which meant that it could no longer afford to employ as many people as it did before. What’s more saddening than losing a job was that my colleagues were informed about their retrenchment just a week before the day they were supposed to pack their things and never come back to work again. If that surprised me, I couldn’t imagine how much it shocked my office mates who, in the middle of a global pandemic, with sources of livelihood depleted, just lost their main source of income. It’s easy to plot a backup plan, but in times like this when businesses are shutting down and some even declaring bankruptcy, finding a job easily is close to impossible.
Despite this, they did not blame the company for laying them off. I know they understood that it was also a tough call for the management. If the pandemic didn’t break out, the company wouldn’t let go of its valuable employees who had served for months and years just to provide quality service to its clients. This is one of those times when companies must make difficult decisions that could affect many lives. It’s all part of the side effects of the pandemic.
There are days when I want to blame someone for what happened. I want to blame the virus for spreading so fast that businesses had to close for months, leaving thousands of employees without income. But how do we blame an enemy that, however unseen, still threatens to shut down lives and even the economy? I want to blame the government for not being able to provide concrete plans for its people. It kept a blind eye and closed mind when people asked that the country’s doors be closed to those coming from other countries — not to burn bridges but to protect the people from the virus. I partly want to blame the company for not telling my colleagues earlier, so they could at least have had the chance to have some sort of fallback.
But blaming is not the name of the game. No matter how much we blame others for this mishap, they do not hold the accountability for this. We’re all casualties of the pandemic (and the failure to contain it), after all.
I had spent almost a year with my colleagues. We would have lunch together, connecting tables in the pantry as if we owned the entire place. We drank on Friday nights knowing it was okay to have a hangover the next day, because we wouldn’t have to think about work. Those days are gone.
The absence of the people whom I used to have coffee with every morning has become very apparent. Yes, there are far more pressing issues that the world is facing right now than my lack of coffee buddies, but the occasional self-reflection about things like this is as important as showing empathy for those who have lost their jobs and livelihood, and those who have not received any form of support from the government.
Today is a sad day, indeed. I might lose my job one of these days and become another casualty of the pandemic but, even just for today, let me feel for my colleagues who can’t have their jobs back.
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Jade Nool, 21, works in a financial institution.
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