Sunday, March 5, 2017

My First Jobs

Nothing can make a child feel more grown up than earning money for a chore or a job.  That was how I felt when I got a doll in exchange for babysitting my youngest sister when she was a baby.  I swung the duyan or a cradle made of bamboo strips that hanged from the two corners of the room during one summer we spent at my maternal grandmother's house. We always stayed the whole summer at my Lola Sefa's house when I was a child. It was a good break for my mother who spent the rest of the year at her mother in law's, my Nanang Pina's, house.

I felt proud that I was earning something and also having a goal.  Although I did not get what I was aiming for, a doll who could close her eyes, but a less dynamic one, I still have good memories of the whole experience of swinging the duyan, the motion of which would stop my sister from crying while at the same time earning what I wanted.

I did earn real money when I was young but I should not use the word earn because I did not deserve it.  I panhandled the twenty five centavo coins from employees coming out of the payroll office of the factory my grandmother owned on the payroll day. They just gave me the quarters to shut me up.  This practice did not last long since one of the employees told my nanny, Mami, who told me to stop doing that panhandling.  I still could see her angry eyes and her mouth saying, "Shame on you".  I still cringe every time I remember what I did. What was I thinking? And where did I get the idea of doing it?  The timing of when I did it seemed logical to me then but not the moral implications.  I was getting money I did not deserve from hard working people!

I did have a legitimate job later on during one summer at the second compound of the factory my grandmother owned where bagoong or anchovies where canned.  I must still be around ten years old and when we were still living at my Nanang Pina's house when I got this first real job. I and a couple of my younger brothers would be dropped off either by a family driver or my father at this compound and we would put labels by hand on the cans of bagoong.  I remember having to kneel in order to put the paste on the label and then paste the label one by one to the cans, by rolling each can on some kind of hard surface like a piece of wood.

We were not given the quarters we earned for every box we labeled the same day but we kept a count which we relayed to my uncle at the payroll office located at the first compound where we lived.  We would go to the office and he would hand out the quarters to us. We were so proud. I felt that pride in my heart and I still do now because I earned it.

All these scenes of my first jobs might have registered in my memory after all these decades because of the lessons of what work ethic means that I learned from them.  Things are earned not asked for or doled out. Honest hard work is the way to go. I also learned that the process is just as important not just the reward. It is not the money itself but the pride you get that drives you for doing the work.

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