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Three letters after my name

/ 04:03 AM January 12, 2021

A few months ago, my life as a graduate student at De La Salle University-Manila and a full-time employee at a creative hub/coworking space in Makati was going well. Juggling both work and school was not easy, and commuting from Bulacan to Makati or Taft was exhausting. But when I set my mind on something, I do not stop until I achieve it.

Everything changed when COVID-19 happened. Suddenly, I had to cope with the unprecedented levels of uncertainty, not to mention the roller-coaster of emotions.

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Because of the global pandemic, majority of the workforce adapted to the work-from-home setup. In the first weeks of quarantine, I was working remotely. But before March ended, my company put us on a “no work, no pay” scheme. I was shocked and clueless.

The first thing that came to mind was: “How am I supposed to pay for my tuition?” As a working graduate student, this job funds my graduate career. Unsure of what was ahead of me, I used my savings from the bank and enrolled for thesis writing. I was determined to finish my master’s degree.

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A month later, my boss messaged me, “I am looking at bringing you back remotely.” I was happy because I could finally do some work again. But at the same time, I was already so stressed with my thesis. I couldn’t count how many times I had said “ayoko na.” I had to find a balance under immense pressure.

Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse… Two weeks before my final thesis defense, I got a call from my company. “I have good and bad news for you. Which one would you like to hear first?” our business head asked. Of course, I wanted to hear the bad news first, followed by the good news, thinking I would feel better if the bad news was already out of the way.

The bad news was that the company was terminating my employment. The good news was that they would provide me with separation pay and pro-rated 13th-month pay.

I felt sad because I enjoyed what I was doing there, and my colleagues were some of the most hardworking human beings I had ever met. But at the same time, I knew that the company tried its best to keep the business alive. It’s just that they were not able to bounce back as quickly as they had hoped.

Despite the news I received, I pushed through with my thesis writing and started preparing for the defense. I read my paper over and over again, bearing in mind that I couldn’t afford to enroll for another term because I did not have a full-time job. The night before the defense day, I could not sleep because I kept on thinking: “Did I do enough? What if I fail?”

It was the longest night of my life. I got out of bed at five in the morning. I had cookies and donuts for breakfast so I could have that sugar rush. I took a shower and wore my lucky colorful long-sleeved polo.

At 8 a.m., I opened the video conference room and waited for the panelists to arrive. I gave them a big smile, but deep inside, I was nervous. The presentation took 30 minutes, and the Q&A was 30 minutes as well. I tried to enjoy the moment and told myself that I did my best. The panelists asked me to leave the conference room so they could deliberate and decide whether I passed or failed.

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After 15 minutes, I rejoined the conference. “We are happy with the research that you’ve done. Congratulations, you passed!” the panelists announced. I said my thanks and told them I was grateful. As soon as I ended the call, I screamed so loud that our neighbors probably thought something was going on in our house.

I waited for my mother to come home from her dialysis treatment so I could tell her that I passed my defense. Hearing her say “I’m proud of you, anak” was probably the cherry on top of this experience.

I have no idea how I was able to survive under a no-work, no-pay scheme, then brought back to work only to be terminated while writing a thesis for my master’s degree. It was physically and emotionally draining. But I can now proudly add the three letters after my name.

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Kevin Galvez, MMC, 25, is from Guiguinto, Bulacan. He earned his Master of Marketing Communications degree from De La Salle University-Manila and previously worked for a creative hub/coworking space in Makati.

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