“We just want to be accepted.” — Sama-Bajaus (BRIDGING THE GAP: Unheard Stories from the Lives of the Poor – Part 2)

Click here to read Part 1 of “Bridging The Gap: Unheard Stories of the Lives of the Poor”

Our eventful trip started early and it was getting close to the middle of our first day. That meant it was almost my favorite time of day – chow time! But for some odd reason, I wasn’t feeling too hungry. Maybe because I was already filled with so much food for thought from the first few activities? Whatever it was, I let everything digest as we left the barangay hall of Pahinga Sur, and went off to our next location – their community garden.
FRUITS OF YOUR LABOR. I’m a firm believer of the saying “no hardwork goes unrewarded.” As long as it is pure, consistent, and with good motive, in time you will only find yourself with nothing but positive results.

With the sun shining bright, it was a perfect time to soak up some Vitamin D, and we got to do that while we had a short walk to Brgy. Pahinga Sur’s community garden, owned and maintained by the Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries themselves.
The beneficiaries can proudly say that their well-kept garden is a product of what they learned during their FDS on Bio-Intensive Gardening.

“We learned how to maintain this garden. We chose what to plant. We do the harvesting. And then we can choose to either sell our produce or we can use it for our own household needs.” – Anna Umandap

This to me, along with the testimonies of some of the other beneficiaries back at the barangay hall, is evidence that the FDS are not only successful, but the beneficiaries are really striving for development to sustain their livelihood.

That brings me to one of the other core programs of DSWD, the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP). It invests in building the capacity of people in a community to engage in socio-economic activities, so they can stand on their own. The SLP gives employment facilitation by teaching technical skills, giving occupational guidance and job refferals. For the aspiring entrepreneurs and businessmen, there’s the micro-enterprise development where a capital is given to help start small businesses.
The Project Development Officer of SLPs in Brgy. Pahinga Sur, Kson Lee Piedad, explained how they determined what programs best fit their community and how it has improved their livelihood.

“Actually, yesterday the training for security guards finished. That’s guaranteed employment. They just have to wait three weeks, then our partner agencies will absorb them. When I first started here, we conducted a survey asking what kind of training the majority of them are interested in; if they want to start a business. From there, we formulated possible projects we can do. In 2015, we identified that food and beverages services and security guard training are what they wanted. Only recently, the security guard training materialized. For the food and beverages services, majority want to become waiters. We already have 50 graduates from the food and beverages trainees. The difference is, we don’t force them to enter the agencies offering jobs. We tell them it’s their free will to choose if that’s really what they want, or not. 5-10 out of the 50 entered that industry, while the rest chose other industries, like manufacturing.” – Kson Lee Piedad

Walking back to our van, it was reassuring to know and see that with the guidance of DSWD, the beneficiaries are now able to reap the fruits of their labor on their own two feet.

Like our first stop in Dolores, we were then off to visit another successful project funded by DSWD under the Kalahi-CIDSS program. A two-classroom school building at Macasaet National High School in Brgy. Pahinga Norte, Candelaria.
FROM THE GROUND UP. To get to the top, you must start from the bottom. The pursuit to even just progress can be the most challenging, but when things get tough making you feel like giving up, the most important thing is to remember why you started.

Entering the gate of the school, I immediately sensed that typical rowdy school environment. There were students running around, playing games, while some were in class with their teachers trying to get back their attention, as some students were distracted by us visiting. Students waved at us from the windows of their classroom. I waved back with a smile, thinking how great it is for them to have a place to study, even in one of the poorest and most typhoon-affected areas nationwide.
As told by Anna Umandap, a 4Ps beneficiary who also accommodated us at the garden, the two-classroom building was literally the result of blood, sweat and tears. Especially for Anna, who introduced herself as the barangay-elected Project Preparation Team Head.

“Our community chose between building an open canal, an evacuation center, or this – classrooms. We chose the classrooms for the school… All of the work goes through me. I run and assist. I do the paperwork. I’m the secretary for the barangay… with everything that happens here, I’m the one accountable for.”

Though everyone from the barangay who helped make this project successful, are volunteers, that didn’t mean they don’t get anything in return. As they told us more about what they went through to build the classrooms from scratch, you can tell by the tone of their voice and faces, that it was definitely a test of strength, patience, and will power to continue on.

“To tell you the truth, there were times we wanted to give up. But we thought of all the help [funds and training] given to us. We started it, so we should finish it. No matter what. So that we’ll know that all the hardwork we put in is worth it in the end, all for the future of our children.”

They found out that if they were able to accomplish building those classrooms from the ground up, they are willing to do it again, and more, knowing that everything they do for the community will benefit them in the longrun, even if it isn’t financial support.
Like Mario Gonzalez from the FDS visit at Brgy. Pahinga Sur, education remains the top priority for their entire community. That’s why they prioritized this project: to accommodate more students – their children – in hopes that they too, learn the value of education and perseverance to get them on top of their dreams.

It was now goodbye Candelaria, and hello Lucena City. We went on to Barangay Dalahican where we got to meet a Sama-Bajau community during one of their beadmaking skills training. This is in line with another project, currently being pilot-tested by DSWD.
ONE AND THE SAME. Tall or short. Black or white. Single or married. Rich or poor. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we are all humans wanting the same thing: to live a happy, purposeful life with the ones we love. They say that you should always be nice because everyone is fighting a battle you don’t know about, and I believe that to be true. This however can be difficult to do, especially when you come across a stranger that is different – an outcast from the rest.

I remember riding a filled jeep one day in Makati City. We stopped at a red light. Suddenly, an unruly juvenile climbed on and hung from the back of the jeep. As he made his way inside the jeep, he left small crumpled envelopes on each of our laps. The jeep driver kept telling him to get off, but he wouldn’t listen. The boy had dark-brown messy hair, streaked with what looked like black car oil. There was dirt all over his body like he’s been getting smoked by vehicles on the road all day. With his barefeet, wearing a wornout oversized shirt, and ragged basketball shorts, he sat down waiting at the back of the jeep while murmuring words I couldn’t comprehend. I saw him start to collect his envelopes, so I quickly put my spare change in and gave it back. The person beside me however, didn’t even touch the envelope so it fell on the floor. The youngster got quite upset upon seeing it, and ended up spitting on the man, slapping his face, while yelling words I couldn’t understand again. With everyone shocked and scared, the kid jumped off the jeep and ran away.

With a negative connotation, they said he was “just another Bajau”.

Though I’ve had similar experiences in my hometown, this particular incident stuck in my mind. I was bothered. Because I knew what happened that day, was just the tip of the iceberg. Behind the actions of that young boy, is a much deeper story waiting to be heard… That’s why I was a bit hesitant arriving at the Little Haus Community Center, where unexpectedly, I was greeted by a group of Bajaus passionately hard at work making bead accessories.

“The government did an assessment. Though it is their [Bajaus] personal choice if they want to go back to their rightful provinces, as much as possible, our advocacy is to welcome them with open arms by providing livelihood programs and interventions.” – Analiza Dano

What our resource person, Ms. Analiza was talking about, is the Comprehensive Program for Sama-Bajau. Its aim is to reduce their vulnerabilities, give access to basic services, eliminate their practice of begging on the streets, and at the same time nurture their rich culture. The beadmaking is just one of the skill trainings being provided. They are also included in the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program that holds monthly FDS teaching them values, importance of health and education, and strengthening family relations.

Contrary to what many believe, the Sama-Bajau are actually very peace-loving, and highly skilled nomads, particularly in fishing. Hence their tribal name, “Bajau”, which translates to “man of the seas” or “sea gypsies”. Did you know they have a different name, everytime they move to a new area? One of the main reasons why they leave the land they originated from and constantly travel from one place to another is because of pirate attacks. When conflict arises, they do whatever to stay away from it.
“There was a man who was killed and they [pirates] stole his boat. It happened to us. We used to live on our boat. After fishing, we came back to land and they were waiting for us so they can steal our fish and boat. They killed our father. One of our other siblings were killed too. That’s why we left Zamboanga. We were only kids back then, but I still remember it all. We don’t want to go back there…”

That’s what one of the beneficiaries, Magdalena Rosali spoke up about. Their lives depended on a life on the sea. When you take that away, you basically take away their home, their livelihood, and are left with nothing but fear. If these traumatic events are what commonly happens to the Bajaus, it’s no wonder they end up on the streets begging and doing whatever they can just to meet their basic needs.

So how have their lives changed since being under the Comprehensive Sama-Bajau program? Magdalena’s sister Nolima Rosali spoke in behalf of all of the Sama-Bajau there, and said:
“The change wasn’t hard. We learned how to live a better life like everyone here with their support. Just like now, we learned how to make these [bead accessories]. We can sell these and now we have money for our needs. They taught us how to write our names…”

Ms. Analiza shared that before, all of the Sama-Bajau beneficiary’s documents were filled with thumbprints, instead of their names and signatures. Now with the help of DSWD, they have certified documents with their permanent names.

“We learned how to respect other people… We felt a big change in our lives. We used to beg for money all day long and get about P200 daily. Our mother would scavenge. I would use some of the money for my studies. When DSWD helped us, we were given a home so we can study. With your help, my two children are now in school and we don’t beg anymore. Even until now. We’re occupied with what we’re doing here now. That’s why we’re grateful. We’re thankful for all of you.”Nolima Rosali

It was enlightening knowing that these people are now in good hands. After hearing the Rosali sister’s stories, my negative perspective on the Bajau community changed tremendously. I can say that Bajau’s are all just misunderstood. They are vibrant, colorful personalities – just like their sense of style (as seen with Nolima). They are passionate, hard-working, and just love life.
Aside from the beadmaking, the program also trains them to make rugs and rags, rosaries (which are being sold abroad), and bags. Did you know Bajau’s are also known to be naturally effective sales-talkers? It goes hand-in-hand with the crafts they’ve learned to make.

There’s one more Bajau I was able to talk to and I was really moved by what she had to say. Her name is Jasmin. Together with her cute son, she told her story about how hesitant she was to go to school when she had the chance to, with DSWD’s help. She had a hard time because she was teased by other students because of the way she looked, the way she talked… but she was determined to learn. Though she was only able to finish grade 5 in elementary school, she said she’s still thankful for the help she got and would continue studying if she had the chance again. But for now, she chose to stop her schooling to raise and earn money for her son. From being another beggar on the streets, she is now happy with where she is now, being supported by DSWD. The last thing she said was this:
“We slowly learned to stop begging on the streets, because we now know that it’s wrong. We are thankful that we were welcomed here. We just wanted to be accepted. We were accepted here. And we [Bajaus] accept all of you too.”

Before leaving, the Rosali sisters were teaching us some words from their native tongue, Sinama (the language of Sama-Bajaus) and welcomed us back to their “home”. I made sure to buy something they made, just as a small help for them. I bought this rosary that I saw was made by Magdalena. So I showed it to her and her sister Nolima on my way out. They joyfully laughed and said, “magsukul (thank you)!”
Photo courtesy of Godly Camitan.


BRIDGING THE GAP: Unheard Stories from the Lives of the Poor (DSWD Trip to Quezon, Learning Visit) – Part 1

To be honest with you, I’ve been non-stop brainstorming on how I could (or should) approach writing about my extraordinary “Learning Visit – Trip to Quezon Province” last June 29-30, spearheaded by DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).

In my title for example, I struggled to use the word “poor” to describe the state of the communities we visited. Is it politically incorrect? I had to think hard about it. To some, it may be. But to me, it’s the best unfiltered description. Why should I minimize or sugar-coat it? That’s the truth. We all know that about half of the Philippines is still in poverty. And if reading any of that bothers you, or makes you uncomfortable in the slightest way, then the more I encourage you to continue reading.
I guess what I mean to say in starting this blog, is it overwhelms me that in a short span of two [eventful] days, I’m able to produce infinite things to share. You can’t blame a guy who has minimal knowledge and involvement in social welfare services, immersion in poor communities, and the like. But my fresh experiences, supplemented by inspiring stories of kind strangers from different walks of life led me to countless realizations and discoveries. Essentially, it gave me a change in perspective on myself as an individual, on people, the government, the world in general, and life as a whole.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. It sounds a bit much. It might sound funny or unusual, but allow me to enlighten you, just like how I was. So bear with me as I gather my scattered thoughts to come up with this: a different kind of article touching themes not regularly seen in my blog, yet I believe is important for anyone and everyone to open their minds and hearts to.

I’m not one to throw a bunch of hard facts, numbers, and statistics, that you can easily search on the web. Instead, I’ll be giving food for thought as I bridge out to you the intangible – moving stories of unique individuals supplemented by my personal highlights, to fill in the social gap formed by a lack of awareness and understanding. I’ll leave it to you to take away whatever deeper sense you can get from this.

*Quotations in this article are non-verbatim, english translations that embody the essence of the actual discourse.

With that said, let’s cut to the chase and get on to Day 1’s first stop: Barangay. Pinagdanlayan in Dolores. It is the home of the pilot project of one of DSWD’s programs, Kalahi-CIDSS (Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services). The program is a participatory approach aimed to empower residents through engagement in the development of their community.
For the majority of us, health is top priority, just like for the community at Brgy. Pinagdanlayan. That’s why they chose to construct a health center with the generosity of DSWD funding the project back in 2003, and was successfully completed the year after.

I looked outside my window and got a glimpse of the health center as our van slowly came to a stop. My first impression was it didn’t look like much – just another piece of infrastructure. Little did I know, it was a lot more than just that.
In the blue, wearing that shy, yet endearing smile is Barangay Captain Francisca Deliso or better known as “Sally”.  Before being elected as Barangay Captain, she was actually the Barangay Sub-project Management Committee (BSPMC) chair for Kalahi-CIDSS. She had plenty to share about how the entire project transpired, and that’s where I learned how immensely engaged the residents were. From addressing their top needs, planning, designing, to the actual implementation and maintenance of the health center – all for the betterment of their community.
“Actually, I originally wasn’t a volunteer. I’m an OFW. I had no idea that when I’d come back, this [health center project] would be in progress. I didn’t even know what Kalahi-CIDSS was. It was my former husband who was chosen (by the community) to volunteer and lead. The prioritized project was infrastructure. It was good that he was a construction worker, just like all of the other volunteers. But they didn’t expect the project to have an overwhelming amount of seminars, training, and paperwork. That’s where I came in. I became extremely dedicated. Lots of tears were shed. We had countless sleepless nights… But this project materialized to give service to our community’s health problems and we are very thankful for it and the help given to us by DSWD.” – Brgy. Captain Francisca

As she went more into detail of the process they went through, I was astonished by the amount of strength and will power they needed to muster and unite as one community to accomplish the task at hand successfully.
Juncel Reyes is the designated nurse for this particular health center. When asked, around how many people are served on a daily basis, he said that it depends.

“Some days we serve about ten. On other days, it depends. For example when we have recruit monitoring, we try to accommodate them all as much as possible, sometimes reaching about one-hundred kids. And in some cases, we are the ones who go to them.”

Alongside him is midwife volunteer Rovelyn Locus, trained to assist in other work at the health center. Other midwives like her are the volunteers who help with the maintenance and operations. When we asked about how far their service can extend for the community, they explained their limitations.
5“The most common cases here are acute respiratory infections or loose bowel movement. When it’s the rainy season, that’s when more service is needed. Delivering a baby can actually be done here in our facility. However, as much as possible we try to bring them to the main health center, because medication and equipment is more complete there. We are on-call everyday. Our midwives give contact numbers to those expected to give birth within the expected month, so they can easily call and be prioritized at the main health center when the time comes.” – Nurse Juncel Reyes

The main health center is only a ten-minute ride away, according to Nurse Juncel. The fact that they are always on-call, goes to show how much they care about giving the best service to their community, without expecting anything in return.

Though again, it may not look like much, their health center has demonstrated its capability to go beyond its main purpose of serving numerous people in need of healthcare, and in time has evolved into a “safe haven” for the community.8
“I have six kids. They’re grown up now. My youngest is turning nine-years old… When my children aren’t feeling well, I know I can always bring them here. It’s here that I can trust and rely that they can find out what’s wrong when I can’t treat them myself.”

That’s what local resident Nancy Magpantay testified when I chanced upon talking to her. She was with her friend and other local resident, Marites Brudente. They, together with their husbands were part of the successful construction of the health center. Marites added:

“We’re just grateful that this health center was built here – near to our place – because the old one is much farther and not easily accessible. It’s a great relief for us. We can always bring our kids here for their checkups. Sometimes we stop by here just to relieve ourselves of stress. I can talk to people here. It somehow gives us a sense of comfort and security.”
I later on found out that some of Nancy and Marites’ children are beneficiaries of DSWD’s social protection and human development program, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or “4Ps”. Basically, the program supports the health, nutrition, and education of children (zero to 18 y/o), with a monthly conditional cash grant to poor families. The conditions, including monthly health checkup of children, school attendance, and monthly Family Development Sessions, are all in the direction of helping alleviate poverty and improving their livelihood. (Click here for more information about the 4Ps.)

“Though sometimes, it really isn’t enough for our everyday needs, it’s still a big help from our government. It’s more than we can ask for and we are grateful for it.”Marites Brudente

“The programs taught and pushed us to improve our livelihood. How to make a living for ourselves, to earn more, and meet our family’s everyday needs.” – Nancy Magpantay

Before saying goodbye to them, I asked them to look into the future, and the two agreed, “if the community were to have another project to materialize, a new high school closer to us would be great, especially for our kids.”
This community in Dolores may be considered as “poor”, but it seems to me that the resident’s healthy, happy, and genuine smiles prove otherwise. That to me, is true wealth.

Candelaria was our next stop, specifically the Barangay Pahinga Sur hall. We arrived just in time to witness one of the components of the 4Ps going on Family Development Sessions (FDS). This happens once a month for the parent-grantees. They’re educated on several topics like budget management, responsible parenthood, children’s rights, disaster preparedness, etc.
THE VALUE OF EDUCATION. Truth be told, there are people who are fortunate enough to have a formal education, yet take it for granted. On the other hand, there are people starving for knowledge, but cannot even afford the basics of human needs – what more, a complete and proper education? I believe that we are always a student, whether inside the walls of a classroom, or outside, under the roof of a barangay hall, perhaps?

After observing their FDS, we were given the chance to ask the 4Ps beneficiaries about their thoughts and experiences on their monthly sessions as a parent-grantee and how it has affected their family households.
“It’s been five years since I’ve been attending these FDS. Personally, I attend for the added helpful knowledge they teach. One of my most significant learnings from the FDS is how to prevent child abuse, because I’ll admit, before I became a member of the [4Ps] program, I would sometimes result to physically hurting my children. But after, I learned it’s wrong and eventually I was able to prevent myself from doing it again. I noticed it made a positive effect on them because they became more obedient.”Leah Manalo

Majority said the reason why they attend is to learn how to properly care for and nurture their families, to pass down their knowledge to their children so they can live better lives. They also mentioned what government agencies they learned about and can ask help from in times when they need it the most, like for healthcare, student scholarships, etc. Being under the 4Ps, their voices are heard. They’re able to get the medical attention they seek, even when they don’t have any money. Unlike before, they wouldn’t be accommodated at all. They became a priority, and that to them is one of the biggest help they’ve received from DSWD and its programs.

Amidst all the women participants of the FDS, was a “thorn among the roses”. He was a scruffy yet jolly looking man who immediately captured my attention with his positive aura. I decided to talk to him to get to know the story behind his big benevolent smile. His name is Mario G. Gonzales – a father of four who values his family and education more than anything.

“I’m here because my wife is an OFW. She’s a domestic helper in Singapore. Eversince we became part of the 4Ps, I’ve been the representative for our family here. We do what we can to help each other and our family. While she works abroad, I also try to make a living here as a tricycle driver. At the same time, I take care of our kids.”

If you think about it, Mario juggles three roles: being the father and mother figure of the family, while trying to make a living for himself as a tricycle driver. There’s no denying that he exceeds the embodiment of what a good parent should be. Because of the circumstances he is in and through the FDS, he learned what gender equality means.

“Just because I’m a man, doesn’t mean I can’t stay at home to raise my children or take care of our food for the day. The same goes for my wife. Even though she’s a woman, it doesn’t mean she can’t be the main breadwinner of our family. I confirmed that learning here.”

He went on and told me more about how their life changed from before being part of the 4Ps, until now.
“Our life was hard. I didn’t have my own tricycle. But I was determined to get one of my own. I needed to help support my children’s education. I knew they were intelligent kids and saw so much potential in them to excel in school. That’s why we work hard to try to get them all to finish school. My wife and I were unable to finish our education and only reached highschool. I remember, we got married at such a young age, with our first child who came when we were still in highschool. We tried working in Manila, where my wife is from. I worked as a guard. It didn’t workout for us so we moved back here. Fortunately we were part of the surveyed families who later became part of the 4Ps. That’s when my wife landed a job abroad, while I was able to learn about educational scholarships offered by the government. They knew we were struggling. That’s why I’m so proud of my kids for getting all three scholarships. Everyone here knows how proud I am. I knew it when I saw their potential.”

You can see it in his eyes, how genuinely happy he was with how far they’ve come, while he continued telling his story. He now boasts of his children’s academic achievements. His two youngest children are still in school. His second child will be graduating soon, while their first child now works as a public school teacher in their barangay. He constantly expressed his thankfulness for the help DSWD and the 4Ps has given them, but he also emphasized an important point, that became my main takeaway from his story.

“Determination and motivation to strive for more means you shouldn’t just rely on what’s being given to you. Don’t stop there. You can take the help being given – big or small – but continue to pursue your dreams. We should persevere. I always tell young ones to prioritize your education before anything, so you can make your dreams come true. My dream is for my kids to finish school and to create a better life for themselves – not relying on anyone. We’re getting old. All I want is for them to have a brighter future.”
I couldn’t leave the place without getting some sort of visual memory of this inspiring man, so I asked Mario if we could take a photo together. He thanked me and said he needed to go home to prepare lunch for his family. He waved goodbye with his signature warm smile, and drove off on what he now proudly calls his own “dream” tricycle – the result of his hardwork, tough love, and perseverance.

Photo above, courtesy of Godly Camitan. Click here to see her blogs from this trip.
And to think this was only half of what happened during the first day.

Like I said, I’m overwhelmed… yet, enlightened. – BOXFACE

Hopeful Hunting

August 11, 2014 – Hopeful Hunting. A tough challenge just wouldn’t cut it. Intense pressure is an understatement. Energy-draining is just part of it. All of these descriptions combined maybe the closest synonymous depiction of what I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of weeks.

Yes, you’ve guessed it – “job hunting.” Cue in the dramatic sound effects. Yeah, that’s why I’ve been missing-in-action lately.

I’ve officially ended my long after-grad vacation and it’s time to get my motivated ass moving. I’ve been working as a freelance graphic artist which allows my working momentum to stay on a roll (and of course for some cash flow because I’m not the type to just ask for money from my parents – I hate that). Although I have been lucky enough to get several projects lined-up to work on, I’m very much ready for more of a challenge out there, immersing myself into the real world – the dog-eat-dog – dirty business – city life – staying away from home kind of situation. If you’re wondering why I’ve been missing-in-action lately, then read on.

Many of my friends are working now and I’m genuinely happy for them and wish them all well. It was only until I really put my mindset on job hunting, that I’ve absorbed the current stage in life I’m in and it all just seems unreal.

All of the stories that we’ve heard about, like the complexity of post-grad life, or the life of people in their twenties is the time when you have a mid-life crisis; in other words, it’s that stage in your life when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, crumbling and falling apart; you’re slowly being dissected by pressure from family, friends, society and even your own self.

Well it’s all true.

It’s that certain stage in life when you’ll be forced to truly see yourself through – inside and out – knowing yourself to the very core in order to determine where you really want to be and what career path you want to take. The feeling is almost like you’re being eaten up alive, by your own worries, insecurities and uncertain thoughts.

It sounds pretty intense if you ask me. Well, that is at least for the majority of those who do in fact go through this stage.

As for me – I know exactly what field I want to get into. I had some doubts however, even until now, because these things can change in time. It’s a never-ending process of discovering your true potential. I know my strengths and weaknesses, my work capacity, where I want to work… To cut it short, I’ve narrowed down my choices to a specific kind of job, which is good. It allows me to see a clearer career path. It won’t be difficult when I’m actually working. I’ll know exactly what to expect. However, this can also make it more of a challenge, since my options are lessened and if in any case (I hope doesn’t happen) that I don’t get accepted in any of my first choice companies, then I’ll have to lower down my standards to make way for other job opportunities.

Finding a job is way more than just searching up a company, sending in your resume, attending an interview and being accepted. One of the most challenging parts of the experience is making decisions in general. You have to consider so many factors when choosing a job and it’s mentally torturing like the company location, salary, etc. Especially when you are already offered a pretty decent job (maybe not your first choice), and at the same time you’re waiting in vain for another job that you’d choose over the former. You wait hoping you get the latter [better] offer, but simultaneously you’re slowly losing the first offer that may have been “the one”. Until you reach the point that you’ve waited long enough, just to find out that you’ve already lost both opportunities.

It’s stressful and disappointing being in a situation like that, but in the real world, it does happen. And you’re left there with those regretful “what if’s,” thinking how it would be if only you took the offer earlier.

Then there are those painful rejections that everyone will experience. They come in all different forms, but each one can really give some sort of impact on our self-esteem. I recently came to the point where I just felt that I’m always falling short. I’m so close already, yet almost is just not enough. I’ve received many of those filtered “maybe” emails, which eventually turned into another rejection. The thing is, the competition is extreme and you just have to keep it moving – applying and trying out all of your options. Never stay idle. Otherwise you may just miss out on an amazing opportunity.

On the flipside, that’s exactly what makes the whole job hunting a great learning experience. As much as possible, I try to stay positive and keep myself motivated. An average person will have a number of rejections before actually landing that reasonable job for themselves. It’s all about how you take and internalize each negative response. We just have to stay strong and dedicated – keep reminding ourselves that each rejection is actually just another step closer to where we’re supposed to be.

I’m a firm believer of that. So I guess I can say that each one of those rejections I received has definitely only made me more hungry – metaphorically (and literally) – to find the right job for me, even if it takes longer than expected.

I’ve had several amazing opportunities if I really think about it. The places I applied at are some reputable and top-notch companies covering the fields of advertising, print publishing, production, branding, merchandise and marketing. The fact that I was even considered, called-back for an interview at that company is a real honor. In addition, people whom I’ve worked with in the past or have just seen my work, have contacted me offering jobs and/or recommendations, as they see great potential in me. That’s what keeps me going – knowing that I am able to catch the attention of companies and people. It tells me that I am able.

Where I stand now – I’m still working freelance and waiting for that one special company to hire me. I’m not it any position to give up now, because after the several rejections I’ve already received, I know I’m so close already and it’s only a matter of time that I hit that “jac-pot.”

Keeping the good-vibes rolling!

Shoutout: Sea Of Success

A couple of weeks back, I wrote an article called “Ambition: Good or Bad?” It’s about how society – in the Philippines – sees “ambition” or people who are “ambitious/ambisyosa” in a negative way and my contradicting thoughts towards the phenomenon. I can say I am of the minority, because it seems that most people think that being ambitious is a trait to look down upon. But my goal in sharing my thoughts about that strange concept was to provoke and inspire others to continue to aspire and dream big, no matter what other people think. I believe I was able to do that, even just from the small network of responses I received.

However, there was one response I got that stood out to me and I really wanted to share. It was a talented young lady who messaged me saying.
“I wrote a poem inspired by your article about ambition. I’m gonna submit this one to our school paper. Sending hundred thanks to you for inspiring me that much!” – Vee

I was inspired back from reading her poem, and well I guess you can check it out for yourself. I’m not much of the poetic type, but I know this one is good and people can relate to it as well – encompassing the big points in my article as well. 

It’s so awesome to know you share the same sentiments and that I was able to inspire you, Vee, so I hope you don’t mind me sharing your poem. Stay ambitious and good luck in the future. Thanks for inspiring me back – to continue writing and keeping the good-vibes rolling. 

Sea of Success
by Vee Gonzalez of misssoftvoice

I was once a dreamer; now, a fighter.
I’ve been ambitious, I’m glad I still am.

Having an unreachable goal,
One guy believes I could never reach it
To drain and discourage me had been his habit
—But who will truly fail?
Is it me who tries to attain my dream?
Is it him who claims to be a barrier?

I know he’s trying to save me from failing
But what he didn’t know was,
It was him who had been my anchor for so long.

I may be ambitious in his eyes, 
but I don’t only stare at my dreams like he does
I know what I should do, I know what I can do.

Sure, it means boxes and circles of effort
Infinite arrows and lines to achieve success 
Sure, it says I’m not yet contented:
with where I am, what I am or what I have.

But can’t he just see the good thing on it?
I am trying to make things better
I’m aiming and hoping
Discovering and noticing
I don’t see anything wrong with that. 

Ambition: Good or Bad?

A: “I want to become a… I want to travel and live in… I want to work at…”
B: “Ambisyosa ka!” [You’re so ambitious!”]– exclaimed with negative connotations.

I’ve observed it on TV shows, movies and even witnessed it first-hand here in the Philippines, that being ambitious seems to be a trait generally looked-down upon. But why is that? For a person with big dreams like myself, hearing the word “ambisyosa” pessimistically uttered frequently is rather strange, discouraging and actually alarming.

Since when did being ambitious become an adverse characteristic? What’s wrong with having ambition?

Where I grew up, it was always encouraged, especially to the youth to pursue large goals, be driven, aim high, dream big, not to settle for less and reach for nothing but the best – all relatively positive outlooks on life that have stuck with me ever-since. And what else do they all have in common? They all fall under the description of what it means to be ambitious/have ambition.

Am·bi·tious (adjective)
— having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed // (of a plan or piece of work) intended to satisfy high aspirations and therefore difficult to achieve.
synonyms: aspiring, determined, enterprising, motivated, enthusiastic, energetic, zealous, committed, purposeful
(Source: Google Definitions)

And again, where and how did the “negative part” come about?

Sure, being ambitious means you’ll need to exert an extra-large amount of effort in order to achieve success in whatever it is you’re aspiring for. It means you’re not yet contented with where you are, so you become more motivated and take action to reach that certain level of satisfaction you desire. I don’t see anything wrong with that. There’s no doubt that it won’t be easy. But can’t that be seen in a more positive perspective? Being ambitious means you’ll be going through a series of challenges that will allow change, development, and essentially, a more self-fulfilling future.

It seems to me that if being ambitious is generally looked at negatively and discouraged (in the Philippines – I’m not sure in other places). then the flip-side of that is, maybe people are just easily contented with mediocrity. Maybe people are too afraid of change because they don’t want to get out of their comfort zone. Maybe they prefer the run-of-the-mill life, instead of something more extraordinary because they would much rather play it safe and not take risks.

This is actually what my family and I talked about over dinner one night. I am not saying everyone is like this, but I stand firm as one of those people who do not see ambition negatively. There’s gotta be a deeper reason behind this certain cultural mindset and it is something I have yet to find out. But for now, I just can’t and will choose not to wrap my head around this concept. What are your opinions on this?

A Reel of the Unreal

Isn’t it strange yet fascinating how dreams are constructed and played in our heads while we’re asleep? I believe one dream is a fabrication of little bits of our past, present and future – all in one psychologically and emotionally stimulating reel of unreal experiences. I had another dream last night that I was back in Canada and it went a little something like this:

“I was on a roadtrip with my family somewhere in Manila, Philippines. After just a couple of minutes we arrived at my old high school in Canada, “Burnaby Mountain Secondary School.”

Clearly this is a dream because it’s impossible to get to the other side of the world that fast… and by car? Seriously? That would be pretty awesome though.

Anyway, I was dropped off there like it was a normal, start of the day for school kinda thing. The building looked exactly the same as I remembered – huge glass windows surrounding the walls, crowded and loud, filled with rowdy students. I start to see old friends and they’re all greeting me like we haven’t seen each other in years (which is true if it was real). “It’s good you’re back!”, “Where have you been?” and “I missed you!” was all I was hearing from them. It felt so good. I was then in a room with a bunch of my old friends and people who I wasn’t exactly close with before, but seemed to be my friend in my dream. We spontaneously planned a trip and we were off – that quick and easy.”

If only life was really like that, right? There’s like an easy button for everything in the dream world. But I digress.

Honestly, I forgot what else happened in my dream and all the little details. It’s normal for someone to forget 95% of what they just dreamed about, a couple minutes upon waking up (so don’t be surprised).  Which is fine, because I don’t think I need a legit psychologist to tell what this dream means.

I just miss my life back there, period. It’s not that I don’t like it here. I love it here in the motherland! But it’s been awhile and lately I’ve been talking with a lot of my old friends back there, and most of them are asking when I’ll be visiting. Before they would always ask when I’ll be back, but it’s different now.

Dreams like that I love – the feeling – it seemed so authentic and genuine that I just felt so happy. But after waking up, knowing it was just a dream – an unreal, mental existence, my feelings just went upside-down. Mixed emotions really. But I can only look at this in a positive way. Like I’ve said in my previous article about “Dreams,” the experiences we had in our dream can in fact be fore-telling us what will happen in your future, which in our perspective is what we know as “deja vu,” a feeling of familiarity or having initially experienced a present situation.

I’m more than motivated now to get where I wanna be in the future, but for now, I’ve gotta live in the present and not get to caught up in dreams like this one. However, I can use it as an extra push and stepping stone to make those dreams turn into a reality and not just a reel of unreal experiences. Keeping the good-vibes rolling!

Real-Life Heroine


June 10, 2014

A continuation from a previous article I wrote about a Real-Life Hero.

“But heroes on the other hand – that’s a different story. I strongly believe that there are indeed, heroes of some sort inhabiting this cruel world we live in.

How am I so sure?

That’s easy. I live with one.

Yes. I’ve been sharing the same roof with a genuine hero all my life. It took several years for me to realize it. But the more I discovered the nature of humanity and how to decipher between what is real, from what is fake; what is good, from what is bad; what is right, from what is wrong – it became apparent and undeniable that heroes, in fact, do exist.

Heroes don’t necessarily have to possess super-human abilities. What makes an individual worthy of calling a “hero” is the traits that they possess, personifying what it truly means to be a hero. The hero that I know however, is extraordinary and in my perspective, is an exception to my previous statement.”

What I didn’t mention from my previous article, was that I also have been living with that certain hero’s partner – a heroine, of her own kind.

What super-powers does this person have? Well, I’ll tell you this again. That’s the wrong question to ask, because she doesn’t only have one super-power, but grasps five major super-human abilities:

  1. Mind-reader. A smile can fool many, but not for this woman. Whether if it’s how you’re truly feeling deep down inside or what food you’re craving for, this woman has the amazing ability to see right through those eyes and into your mind. She’ll find the solution to whatever it is that is bothering or worrying you and effortlessly ease your mind (and even your stomach with her top-notch cooking).
  2. Healer. Aside from physical distress, even just a gentle rub on your back or a kiss on the cheek from this angel will lift those emotions up and help chase those demons away. She exceeds your expectations of comfort and knows exactly what to say when you need to hear it the most.
  3. Infectious. Walking into any room, her presence can immediately be felt as her positive aura that brightens up any atmosphere is a quality that you cannot counter-act. Her powerful emotions are transmittable and can literally turn your bad day, upside-down.
  4. Compassionate. Sensitive and understanding, this woman naturally shows sympathy and concern for others, always putting others before herself. Always motivated to be that helping-hand to anyone who needs it. She is always there – someone you can count on.
  5. Protector. Nothing gets in the way of this heroine when she knows that someone close to her is in danger or in pain. Like a defensive force field, this woman knows how and when to create barriers only to protect the people that she loves from what she accurately judges is unjust.

This heroine I’m speaking of (if you haven’t already figured it out) is my mother – my mom. I know for a fact that many people would agree with me, that she is indeed a heroine. People with those kind of traits are exceptional and should be up for recognition and emulation. If only heroism was a contagious disease, maybe we could all be some sort of hero or heroine too. But being a heroine isn’t impossible. It comes with experience, time, an open mind and the willingness to discover.

Even though this certain heroine is my mother, these traits cannot be passed down genetically, but they can be emulated and self-trained to. If you know people who also exemplify these heroic traits, allow yourself to be influenced by them, so you can too, help multiply the population of heroes in this world.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”
This article is dedicated to my mother, for her 53rd birthday.

Word On Work

After graduating from college, there are generally two roads you’ll choose from.

The first one is the decision to lay back and relax for awhile – live and enjoy the unemployed life. Taking the time to ease your mind after several years of excruciating brain-bending assignments and projects that post-secondary education had to offer.

In other words, you’ll be living the lazy bum life.

Then there’s the other road where you decide to go straight to finding a job and start working – pronto! To make some good money and a living for yourself and your family.

When you’re in that position, for some people it’s a hard decision. For others, they already had a mindset on what they will do prior to graduation. But then there’s that other bunch of people who… well, they don’t exactly know what path they want to take in terms of their career, just go with the flow and take whatever job opportunity that is presented to them.

For me – someone with big dreams, already had a mindset as to what I wanted to do after I graduated. But the road I chose to take was the former – take some time to relax and settle for a bit at home. Although I had some really amazing job offers, I didn’t take them right away. Why? Because I know I can do better and I can see better opportunities for me.

We all know that to get to the top, you have to start from the bottom. No one who has become extremely successful started at the top.

But my point is, you don’t have to start at the very bottom. Why start at the bottom when you can start somewhere in the middle, if you can – having an automatic head-start and just work your way up?

Sure, starting off at the bottom is a guaranteed easier entrance for unemployed starters, but if you exert a little more effort into finding an even better job that is along the path your desired career, it’ll benefit you way more in the long run. I know many of my colleagues who started working just a few weeks or even days after graduation, just for the sake of having a job and being able to say that they are in fact working now, which is not good. I guess it could have been an impulsive decision or due to pressure from the family’s needs of financial stability.

At our graduation, the guest speaker said that you should not be picky when it comes to choosing your first legit jobBut I have to disagree with that. There are so many things you have to consider before getting into the real world. Not just your salary, but company incentives, location… is the job experience worth it? How will you benefit from it? Is that the kind of company you see yourself working at in the future?

There are endless questions that run through the mind of a fresh graduate, which makes the whole job hunting process a nightmare. But that is only a glimpse of what is yet to come in the real, dog-eat-dog world. When it comes to finding a job, you should be picky – knowing what you actually want to do with your life. Although these things can change over time, at least you can say at that moment in time, you knew it was the right decision you made.

Everyone does have their own situation, so it really depends on how well you know yourself. As for me, the job I want to get into at STATUS Magazine, is just waiting for me to step up my game. There are a few requirements that are needed, which I cannot meet just yet, so I chose to take the former road to further enhance my skills and abilities to make me more fitted for that career path I want to take. Not just be a bum at home.

You do have to consider everything for yourself, but don’t settle for less. Don’t sell yourself short and take the easy path. No one knows you better than yourself. If you know what you’re good at and what makes you happy, combine that and find a complimenting job for you that will cater to your other personal needs.

Good Music, Where You At?

How to Make a Hit Song (2013-2014 Edition)
Let’s face it – nowadays the mainstream music has become a seemingly effortless construction of non-substantial, uninspiring lyrics, a catchy beat that somehow makes you want to dance unreasonably, and a mostly electronic instrumental that practically sounds the same as all of the other ‘on the hype’ hits.

Almost anyone can make a hit song. You can make one too. Here’s how:

Step 1: Choose to hire someone to write lyrics for you or make it yourself, just make sure it has a repetitive hook and has absolutely zero meaning whatsoever. No one really cares about the lyrics anyways.

Step 2: Produce a good dance, club-feel beat that will surely get you on your feet (this includes the breakdowns). You can also throw in some random claps, synthesizers and siren sound effects to compliment the song’s flow. If you want, you can even add a little dubstep… everybody loves that.

Step 3: When recording your vocals, make sure your autotune is to the max, just enough to hide your horrible singing – making you sound like a whole different person.

Step 4: After arranging the entire mix and stitching everything together, you’re now ready to release your new hit song on every radio station or as a CD single.

Step 5: Promote the song by making a visually appealing music video with flashing lights and back-up dancers – preferably with a rave. Make sure the concept has nothing to do with the actual song itself. The artist doesn’t even need to be in the music video, so just hire some good-looking people to take your place.

For additional appeal. Collaborate with an overrated, mainstream artist who makes mediocre music. Sampling old hits into your new song is another technique in producing hits. Just add your own little twist! When making an album, if you feel that you’re running out of inspiration, record songs like these and just throw them into your track list as your fillers. Or you can even make an entire album out of these kind of songs. Who knows? It might just become the next hit single in your album!

Written By: Sam Carlos x Jac Carlos

Readers Discretion: This article is satirical and was written based from our personal observations. It is not intended to offend anyone but to strike up a conversation and open up our minds (and ears). Tell us what you think! 

Personal Thoughts: I wrote an article about music for a magazine last year and it became the springboard for ideas in making this article for my brother and I. We randomly started talking about it while eating breakfast, and it was way too interesting not to write about. Good music is relative. I’m not saying that the type of songs we described are necessarily bad. Heck, I like some of them. They’re catchy, good to dance to, etc. It’s a trend thing that happens in a certain period. But there will come a time when these popular songs just get plain boring. Let’s talk lyrics – all we hear nowadays in songs is about partying, drinks, drugs, cars and sex. Same old shit, just a different artist. Sure, those stuff can be fun and cool. But this is what happens to any sort of art when it’s now being made for business – money, instead of pure creative expression. I’m sure everyone would have a good opinion on this kind of topic on “good” or “bad” music. We all have our own taste. So what’s your verdict?


You hang out with skaters, own a skateboard, knows how to ride it, but rarely uses it – does that make you a “skater?”

You grew up in a Christian family, go to church every Sunday, but doesn’t practice the religious customs – can you still be called a “Christian?”

You love to take photos, practice photography unprofessionally, but doesn’t own a camera – can you still be considered a “photographer?”

You have a dark complexion, some freckles and a scar on your face – does that mean you are “ugly?”

“What is the borderline in order for us to determine what label we possess?”

Nowadays people can easily judge you from what they see, the things you do and the things you possess, no matter if that label is of your profession or not. In addition, you as an individual can even self-proclaim a certain label and find others contrary – thinking otherwise, which can result into conflict. If you’re going to give yourself a label, at least back it up, right?

This is why I never liked the concept of labels, but it has now become a socially constructed notion of society that is almost impossible to stay away from. The way I see it, is that labels have the power to divide, take away the thrill or mystery by exposing the unknown and uniqueness or individuality of each of us. On the other hand, it does allow us to see the common grounds – creating social bonds through people’s similar personal interests.

Man has created labels in order for us to easily identify and classify each other as a human in society. But now living in a generation that is constantly seeking to express their individuality, these labels work contradictory to that movement. We are all different and that’s what makes this world fascinating. Imagine living in a world where everyone is exactly the same – pretty boring if you’d ask me.

The bottom-line for me is, “labels don’t matter.” The only label I think we should live up to, is the label given to us by our parents – your name. We all have a different name (well most of us do) that make you… you. If you do have a name that’s common, either way, you can still define and individualize yourself with the things you do and what you’re interested in and try to stay away from those labels. And so with that said, “Hey, what’s up! I’m Jac Carlos – I like to write articles, graphic designing, take photos on my phone, dance, get lost and read STATUS magazine. Nice to meet you! And you are…?

(Photo Source)