Is it true? Or, is it false? I don’t know.
May I ask from among readers out there what they can say about this message?
My brain seems in need of rewiring every after doing a stressful work requiring me to have a strong resolve to completely adjust to people whose brain, figuratively small, could have been suffering from a dearth of well-fixed neuronal circuits, as I found it somewhat difficult to decipher, in my first attempt, the subliminal message the designer would wish to implicitly convey.
I admire the designer for sharing with us a message for us to ponder about. In his own little way, he has incited — not just prodded – us into admitting a fact of life that some of us are destined to be a worker because work, in our stratum, is the ultimate means by which we can survive in this highly political world.
While we are governed by politicians, imbued by us, through the exercise of our right to suffrage, with political power that they can wield to define our economic life, we can never rise above our pity-me situation. The gap between the rich (businessmen) and the poor (workers) has inevitably widened under a government that leaches us of our right to a fair distribution of wealth. The rich become richer; the poor, poorer.
Proletarianization is alive and kicking. Its downsides are more felt by the working class ensnared by an economic system, defined by political mammals, that enriches the businessmen and disennobles the workers.
I remember quite well how my boss, highly conversant of his own exploitative style of dealing with people, posited his own employee retention theory during the course of one of our erratically scheduled meetings with our consultant, whose air of arrogance could have toppled down the strongly built US Bank Tower located in the world’s major seismic region.
“Our company is rich and our employees are poor. This being so, our employees cannot just leave the company as they wish, and if ever they will do so, we can easily replace them with another. We will retain only those who would like to stay with us,” my boss, a Saudi, said.
You see, my boss, who is rich in his own right, has no heart for the poor. As a worker himself, he should have understood the plight of the poor, working in an exploitative company like a felon languishing in jail – sometimes bereft of his right to exercise his rights.
This designer’s message may have led the working class to realize that work is a curse that has no antidote. Worker is always a worker, and he will die a worker.
I spend most of my time after work updating one of my three blogs. As I was teetering on the brink of aloneness and loneliness, I have since few days ago been holing myself up in my room trying to find instead blogs on the net, particularly those within my WordPress community, about how to cope with being alone and being lonely.
While I found a lot of must-reads among the blogs I viewed, I had this strange feeling of surprise – perhaps, shock – when I discovered my write-up “Kevin Villanueva: A Phenomenal Celebrity,” which I posted on April 6, saw posted on another blog on April 12 or after with a title changed to “Kevin Villanueva: Sophisticated Student.”
This is somehow reminiscent of the days when I, working in a Cebu’s local newspaper, was at times tasked to find on PNA, AP, AFP or Reuters some news stories to be posted in the Nation, World and Business sections with edited headlines and contents. It is acceptable, though, as our newspaper is, I think, officially subscribed to these news agencies, and changes made on these news stories by section editors were in accordance with the newspaper’s newswriting standard.
“Kevin Villanueva: Sophisticated Student” is not a reblogging. It is not a crib either. To call it a reblogging or a crib is inappropriate. You just call it a copy of my own. After all, my post is not copyrighted. Or, is it copyrightable? But there is one thing for certain. Before coming up with an article about Kevin Villanueva, I sought his permission by sending him a private message on Facebook. The message was, thus:
“Hi Kevin. I saw on Facebook your photo with a message so emotionally touching to everyone. May I ask permission to post it on my blog, “Of Life and The Living” (URL: www.oflifendtheliving.wordpress.com)? If you may, may I get some info about you on [erratum: this should have read ‘from’] your Facebook profile? This info will be used for me to write a short feature article about you.”
In “Kevin Villanueva: Sophisticated Student,” some parts of the first and last paragraphs were missing – I don’t know if they were intentionally omitted – and Kevin’s photo taken by the grave of his parents was placed on the right side and the cropped photo of his face, on the left side.
There is nothing wrong with reblogging a post as long as credit is given to the original blogger. In fact, I reblogged on March 6, 2012 a post, “Highest and Best…..” from Tracie Louise Photography. For you to know if I gave Tracie Louise due credit, click this link http://wp.me/p11Gpl-gN.
But there is something wrong with plagiarizing it or posting it as if it were your own. It is an act of cheating. In plagiarism, you are cheating not yourself alone but your readers as well.
(A proem for Filipino politicians)
I bloviated like politicians:
Now, not anymore –
no more, no less
Up front I dared politicians:
Bloviate no more, like I did
Now, not any longer –
no more, no less
Mutter did a blogger, like me:
Political jokes ain’t a problem;
they get elected
Under the blistering heat of the sun, we turned blue in anticipation of a significant event — a political campaign — later announced postponed for another day. There was nobody bothering to go back to the rostrum to explain why it did not push through, and there was also nobody taking time to know how we felt about the postponement. Perhaps, it could be because we are, in the eyes of the event manager, mere ordinary citizens easily regaled by the same set of politicians delivering regurgitative speeches that are often bloviatory. Yes, it could be. But it should have occurred to him we are the ones to decide who, among the candidates, should win the upcoming election.
I admit we were disconcerted by the unexpected change of schedule of their campaign in our place — the strong political turf of the lead speaker’s political archnemeses. I am referring to the then presidential candidate (name is withheld in obedience to my didactic — dialectic, rather — superego).
It was on that day that I knew there was a clamor by some Filipinos not to vote him for president. It was also on that day that I knew of this clamor which came about when some Filipinos knew of his performance as a senator.
“Hindi tayo maniwala sa kanya kung ano ang sasabihin niya. Noong siya’y isa pang senador, wala naman siyang naipasa kahit isang batas. Ano kaya ang mapapala natin sa kanya bilang pangulo kung ganon? (Let’s not believe him. When he was still a senator, he was not able to pass even a single bill into law. What could have been our expectations from him when he is elected president?),” I overheard five women, in their late 40s, saying.
To introduce to you, the speaker was no less than the sloganeer of “walang mahirap kung walang kurakot” (there are no poor where there is no corruption).
However, despite this seemingly unabatable clamor against him, he was elected president in 2010.
This is the year when election was excessively riddled with political mudslinging and electors were inexorably goaded into voting politicians who could give them a minimum of “five Ninoys.” (For the non-Filipinos, “1 Ninoy” refers to a 500-peso bill on which the face of the much ballyhooed Filipino martyr Ninoy, father of the erstwhile presidential aspirant and the much touted Queen of All Media in the Philippine Show Business, is reflected.)
In line with our country’s political gubernaculum, I should, if I want to win the presidential tourney, come up with my own campaign banner: “The position of President [is] for sale.” As an offshoot, I am quite certain my government — administration, rather — would be bankrolled by people morally bankrupt.
Political landscape in the Philippines, it seems to me, has to change. Drasticity is not needed, though.
Many, if not all, of my readers would ask: “Why did you write about this when such an election took place in 2010? What is the relevance of this write-up?”
It is because of the upcoming midterm election in our country on May 13 this year.
I am urging my fellow Filipinos to choose right people for public offices and stop believing political bloviators — i.e., politicians who deliver empty, pompous speeches. Let us beware of vote-buying. Let us support those who have a genuine heart for their constituents.
Traditional politicians should not win. If they win, we will lose. We will lose the opportunity to grow as a nation. Our nation is crying for great leaders.
“It started with a simple, single pictorial post on Facebook. But it paved a way for a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime public fame.”
I am referring to one Kevin Villanueva, whose photo posted on Facebook went viral, with, as of this writing, shares bloating up to 1,760; likes numbering to at least 38,049; and comments running up to 1,917. (Source: Facebook)
Posted right after his graduation from the prestigious Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Intramuros, Manila, his photo — taken by the grave of his parents — came with a tear-jerking caption-cum-message:
“Akala nyu kayo lang ang may picture kasama parents nyu ha pero ma, pa this is for the both of you i hope that you are proud of me.”
(Translation: You would think only you have a picture taken with your parents But mom, dad, this is for the both of you. I hope you are proud of me.)
Kevin is an orphan. His parents died before he finished his college studies. Though bereft of his parents, he still exudes a glitter of happiness and enjoyment on his face amid the grim reality he is confronted with. As gleaned from his message, he is an atypical example of a young man who is grateful to his parents in spite of their absence. And this makes him an instant celebrity among mothers out there.
A mom commented:
“Napaka bait mong anak kuya, isa ka sa mga dapat tularan nga mga kabataan ngayon kahit wala ng parents nagsikap para maabot ang pangarap, im sure proud na proud sayo parents mo ngayon” — Dhaine Perjes Escobar
(Translation: You are a very nice son, my friend. You should be emulated by young children. Even without your parents, you are working hard to realize your dream. I am sure your parents are proud of you.)
“You’ve touched the heart of every single parent who’s working hard for the future of their children. I’m sure your parents are so proud of you. God bless you!” — Christina Caayupan-Quezon
Comments became an outpouring of appreciation. Let’s find out what Letecia Carbonell had to say.
“Blessings for you, Young Man, for remembering and being grateful for their Love for you…. if only there are more like you, this world would not be this chaotic.”
One commenter reminded him of a biblical verse to give him an assurance of a prosperous life in the offing.
“Honoring your parents has a great reward from God. Take note his word in Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm your plans to give you hope and a future.’ Glod Bless!”
From a relative, Joyce de Castro Villareal:
“Even though, they are not with you anymore Kevs (referring to Kevin), you betcha, they are proud of you. Even though they are done being your physical parents, now their roles (sic) is for them…. being your guardian angel. Tita (aunt) and Tito (uncle) may not be with you right now. But they are watching you always, keeping you safe…. They are proud of you, because even through all those tough times, you have been strong. And we are proud of you. We love you.”
But I so agree to the comment of one Edward Amba de Guzman.
“This is the most astonishing and exquisite graduation picture I’ve ever seen. Kevin! Indeed, your parents are proud of you.”
Like other people, I am also proud of him. I know there are more people named Kevin Villanueva, but I want to be associated with the Kevin Villanueva, who has touched my and other people’s lives with his curt but striking message.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
(a short story I wrote about a man who stopped believing there is light at the end of the tunnel)
“I was there last night,” I told my friend in near whisper.
It is a place I used to frequent to with a bunch of friends. It is a place where people stand by from dawn to dusk and do nothing but talk about anything to let time pass and, at times, remember bitter memories. When you are there, you always have a chance to look over an array of beautiful scenery in the city, more particularly the twinkles of lights from high-rise buildings out there, coupled with the twinkles of the constellation of stars up high. It is popularly known as Jack’s Ridge. To Davaoenos, it is akin to a gateway to heaven. For God’s sake, it was.
The last night I was there, I saw most of the lights busted. The rundown well, near the pool on the way to a long line of small cottages with beautifully sculpted photos of our heroes, was nowhere to be found, except the stand-alone old, huge telescope that allowed us to take a more clear glimpse at the amazing views of a city that lives and a city where people live a suburban life. They can hardly be social slicks.
We tagged along in coterie. While chatting with friends, I surreptitiously observed a sexagenarian man, in his gray long pants paired with a maroon shirt. He was alone. And he seemed lonely, too. Catatonic as he was, none of us bothered to ask how he got there. He must be limping up the way to Jack’s Ridge. He laughed. He cried. He shrilled. He must have had a problem. And I didn’t try to know it. I marveled at how his family allowed this schizophrenic man to go out of the house and trudge through a dimly road to Jack’s Ridge. It occurred to me then that his family shrugged him off. After all, I told myself it is usual for the mundane among us to not bother to care a man of his psychological status.
Shamelessly I sneered at myself, coercively egging myself on to ignore a portent that might come after, as I peregrinated down a poorly lit narrow aisle towards the pine trees that stood still even after the supertyphoon Ruping wrecked havoc in the entire city and the neighboring municipalities.
Many questions popped into my mind. “Who was that man really? Why did he like to come here? Why did he become insane? Was it hereditary? Or, was his insanity predisposed by his environment filled with apathy and indifference?”
I knew I would not be able to easily find answers to my questions. I knew I would very soon be able to forget the old man. Outlived by superstition, I gave in to the thought that he could be someone sent down to Earth from heaven to test our humaneness. I even gave in to the idea of helping him — without of course thinking of something in return — get out of his heart-rending, hapless situation lest something bad might eventually happen to me. Nevertheless, after a very short while, I thought, with a friend Alfie’s line of thinking in mind, that it was just some sort of an ephemeralistic thinking born out of sheer irrational fear of becoming a victim of gaba (a Cebuano term that is equivalent to bad karma).
The whole night was indescribably eerie. Not even a single bird twitted. Not even a single mosquito bite pissed me off. Not even a moaning by a surviving family of the dead from the nearby cemetery could be heard. There seemed to be an inexorably deafening sound of nondescript silence. This led me to another level of thinking that somehow eroded into a virtual dearth of my capacity to empathize to others and led me into an inevitable admission of the shameless grim of reality – that the no-haves in life are forsaken and that the haves in life, out of stupendous display of pretentiousness, help the no-haves in life.
I reached the place where the tallest pine tree stood tall in silence. The pine tree, along with the barbed wires atop the concrete fences towards the end of the line of cottages, was witness to my disconcertingness that sent me fuming deep inside. “You are terribly apathetic, Dani! You are no different to a murderer who mercilessly kills his hapless victim!” I muttered to myself, resigning to the fact that I was not the same Dani brought up by my parents to be a person with a high sense of righteousness.
I sat silently on the bench, belted in the pine tree, as though I were alone. I couldn’t help but cry. I couldn’t hear anything, except the exacerbated palpitation of my heart. Faster, then faster, then faster did the beatings of my heart go. I was still in the state of disconvolution. Conjured up in my mind was the image of a man, longing for love, for care, and for attention. He was the same man I saw in the lanai of a mini-hotel near the ingress to Jack’s Ridge.
“What will I do? Will I help him? If I will, what will my friends say about it? What will his family feel about it? Won’t they be slighted for it?”
Momentarily, my longing to find the right answer to my questions was lifted out of my confused mind when my friends called me to go upstairs.
“Dani! Dani! Dani! Where are you? Come upstairs. We’ll take our dinner. Aren’t you hungry?”
That was the message of the voice I heard. It had reverberated all throughout the vicinity. Thanks God, it hadn’t awakened the dead from the nearby cemetery. I wasn’t able to recognize whose voice that was. I could only surmise it was Alfie’s voice because it was sort of a screech, in rhythm with a cacophony of a deafening sound of an infinitesimal insect during nighttime, though it was somewhat melodious and seemingly augured well with my inenarrable feeling that time. As I was very hungry, I immediately went to where they were. We then gaily walked towards the stairway, with a humungous crack, to a small coffee shop, painted in dirt yellow paired with a blinding black, near a messy, little restroom lit only with a 50-volt fluorescent lamp twinkling, looking like a star that had just fallen from the mesosphere. Even then, it was the only light that brightened the stairway.
We sat down on the stairs and took our dinner. I was the one who prepared the variety of sumptuous foods we ate. You see, they all liked the foods, thanks to my ever obsequious friend Alfie, my mentor in cooking.
“Dani, please give me a piece of fried shrimp taco,” Bryan requested me hesitantly.
I knew he was so excited to eat it because it was so crispy. Cooked in fresh tomato broth, prickled vegetables and warm Chile heat, the shrimp taco gave him another level of eating experience.
“Did you find it yummy, Bryan?” I boastfully asked him.
“Yes, I did,” he replied. “In fact, it tasted better than that of Alfie’s ….” he added.
“Psssstttttt!!!” I cut him short, without saying a word any longer.
I was very happy then. While eating, in between boisterous laughter, we heard a series of shouts of help.
“Help! Help! Help!”
There was a commotion. And the old man — the one I still have had in my mind at that time — was the one who caused it. It began with the bullying by a group of five drunk, duping young men, in their early 20s, on him, whose plight for which I struggled when I was still a college student. In my mid-teenage years, I was among those who straddled on the streets to demand the government to include among its priorities the creation of a program that would strengthen moral and spiritual fibers of the society.
I rushed to the rescue of the old man who was punched in the face, helpless. He shouted for help at the top of his voice, as if to supplicate, in tears of hopelessness, from the Above, but still ended up a sorry victim of heartless scores of people who cannot understand his plight.
“Alfie, why were you just looking at us?” I asked him.
While I had a beef about how things had gone on after the fisticuffs, I felt extremely slighted at the manner by which Alfie reacted to the situation. He was glued to where he was, as if unafraid of the coming of the day of reckoning, during which one’s eternal destination is determined. He did nothing, really! The situation has given me a vivid allusion of an eternal perdition that will certainly be meted out to the one who cannot simply be pathetic about the haplessness of a man in dire of need, a man whose life’s circumstance, to many, should just be relegated to oblivion. In my realization, it is apparently a negation of the biblical verse that calls upon a person to help those in need. In this case, a man who has a severe bout of schizophrenia.
“Alfie! Alfie! Can’t you just help us?” I asked.
“If you want to help, then do so!” he retorted.
At the moment, his retort astounded me. I could not help but shy myself, together with the old man, away from the group of young men who mauled him to a near pulp. Right then I hailed a taxi cab by my Iphone 4, rode it with the victim, and took him to a nearby hospital. Nonetheless, without my knowing it, Alfie, together with Bryan, trailed us to a government hospital, where the sexagenarian was immediately administered a set of five medicines for his serious physical injuries. He suffered some contusions in the face, arms and some significant parts of his torso.
”It’s good that you and Bryan followed us here,” I told Alfie.
While conversing with Alfie, it occurred to me sporadically that what happened to this man could have happened to a relative of his psychological status. I have a maternal uncle, who, having had a bout of insanity for years now, would go berserk at times and neighbors would appease him by mauling him until he would become unconscious.
But his case was different from this man’s. This man did nothing, except singing along with the young men, a lanky, sporty young woman, in his late 20s, told me. His singing, out of tune, could have irked the sentience of these young men, who sang, also out of tune, ala vocalist of the famous Aerosmith. Who then among the sane would hurt the insane? I reiteratedly asked myself, apparently oblivious of the fact that these young cabals, straddling on the vermudaed ground battling the ugly spirit of intoxication, went terribly out of kilter.
“Do you have money,” I asked him bluntly.
“Why?” he queried querulously.
“We need to buy a medicine,” I told him.
Without any misgivings, he said “OK.”
This is what I really like about Alfie. Many know him as tight-fisted, but he does not foist off on others. Frank and straightforward, he would not be spending money for nothing. At this time, therefore, he handed me two thousand pesos without qualms.
We, yes, bought medicines for the old man. A week after, the old man, in a quandary, asked us where he was and why he was there.
I didn’t answer him. Instead, I cried tears of pity.
“I want to die! I want to die! I want to die!” he shouted.
He was lying on a bed by the window, where he could be seen from outside. On that day, which was a Friday, a heavy rain fell. Floods were everywhere. Thunder roared somewhere. Lightnings struck anyhow. Lights twinkled like stars. Other electric gadgets faltered. Nurses were hauled in the nursing station. Doctors were nowhere to be found inside his ward.
I was so sad.
Again, he shouted, “I want to die! I want to die! I want to die!”. At this very moment, the twinkling lights fell upon him while the lightnings angrily struck his whole body.
“What is reality anyway! It’s nothing but a collective hunch” – Jane Wagner, American writer
As the clock begins to click a few milliseconds from 5:00 p.m. each day of my life working, since first month of 2010, in a place that has a reputation of being Paleolithic in the way it looks at it, it is not the failure of doing my cyclic duty of punching out that I am so worried about, nor is it the thought of finding the most socially acceptable way to steadfastly survive multitudinous, rigorous requisites of work. It is undeniably the tedious process of debriefing and redebriefing myself, apparently on the unethical way of dealing with people, as can be observed in the office. It costs me my life sluggishly, the kind of life I have long dreamed of having — simple but happy and, more importantly, purpose-driven.
I am literally sad and lonely and am literally beginning to lose track of the directions I want to tread through. There can never be any plausible cause to deny this fact of being sad and lonely and of having somehow gone awry in the face of adversities that I have experienced while striving hard to create, in this place better known as The Steward of the Two Holiest Mosques, a name in the profession that is itself my life I should live through all these years. There also can never be any logical reason to believe that because I chose this profession I should be treated indifferent and nonchalant by no less than my colleagues of the same aborigines.
Like others, I am no extraordinary individual. Like others, I am an ordinary mortal who weaves ordinary thoughts in words that may matter to all and sundry. However, I am unique in my own way, a way that is often misunderstood but truly defines who I am in the menagerie — beyond the four corners of the office — that is this world, where stratification of people by social class is a norm and where disregarding such stratification, which standardizes behavioral manifestations, is a no-no. After all, we are in the same kingdom working in the Kingdom and for the Kingdom, outside of our own. To say then, for the sake of immortalizing our bitter memories of our work experiences in this place, that we are slaves in the kingdom away from ours may even be an understatement of our status as indefatigable workers demonized by others of different aborigines to engage us in a cut-throat competition for a strong spring of sources of income. We merely became obsequious in order to survive in a competition like this.
In fact, as of this writing, I begin to think more deeply about what must have lain beyond the four corners of our office that sees Filipinos disennobled by different forms and faces of abuses perpetuated by Arabic bosses micromanaging them, including me. I also begin to ask myself more realistically what will have become of me after being in various situations that I might inevitably accept as part of the harsh realities of life. This is but an exposition of what I truly feel about the situations I am in, a type of oration allocuted not to call for a big number of audiences who may not care about my sufferings and those of many others. This is but a sort of expose not made to enlist the help of the irresponsible among our government officials. They cannot help.
For more than a decade of being an HR practitioner, I can undoubtedly say the ennobling and disennobling nexuses of realities have sunk deeper into my consciousness starting when I grabbed the opportunity to work in a manufacturing firm run by people with, to say the least, a depraved heart. Different people have a mind of their own. They think, act and do, as they do. They are dynamic. It is dynamism, deep within themselves, that propels them to think, act and do. It is same dynamism that coerces them to pursue what they think, act and do — sometimes even if it is beyond the bounds of propriety.
Astoundingly, the recent spate of events in the office is proof enough for me to conclude that the well-ingrained office politics is indeed a real threat to the entire well-being of the employees and that it diminishes the value of each nugget of wisdom left in their young noggins. It leads to the creation of a professional vacuum that predisposes an attitude of indifference and nonchalance from whence spring a multitude of rackety problems. Employees are dishing out a breakfast of disses and spitting out a dinner of messes. That’s reality.
“He is gay.”
Typically, we hear of people say it with a smirk, coupled with a whiff of disgusts and air of scorns, shrugging it off as a normal reaction, to which the American Psychological Association, better known as APA, has advocated to put a stop since 1975.
In pursuit of its advocacy, APA called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma attached to lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations and came up with a sixteen-page pamphlet that will help lay people understand sexual orientation and gender identity.
The pamphlet is replete with the following:
· What is sexual orientation? · How do people know if they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual? · What causes a person to have particular sexual orientation? · What role do prejudice and discrimination play in the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people? · What is the psychological impact of prejudice and discrimination? · Is homosexuality a mental disorder?· What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight? · What is “coming out” and why is it important? · What about sexual orientation and coming out during adolescence? · At what age should lesbian, gay, or bisexual youths come out? · What is the nature of same-sex relationships? · What can people do to diminish prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people?
If you want to know more about sexual orientation and homosexuality, you may go see a psychologist in the APA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office at 750 First Street, NE, Washington DC 20002, or in the Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health Association) at 2000 N. Beauregard Street, 6th Floor, Alexandira, VA 22311 or contact them at (703) 684-7722, (800) 969-6MHA (6642), (800) 433-5959, or (703) 684-5968.
In the Philippines and any other countries, there are no identified specific offices that cater to concerns of lesbians, gays and bisexuals. However, you may go see a psychologist of your own choice in your respective countries.
“Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today I am posting Part 4 as the concluding part of the series. Dealing with the situations of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia similar to those cited in Parts 1 to 3 of the series, Part 4 is being highlighted by the Q&A that is basically aimed at making my views and opinions on their situations understood by the reading public.
However, I will, even after this month, continue to post articles about the life of the OFWs in the Kingdom. This is based upon my personal belief that as a Filipino HR practitioner, I have the obligation to share with you — and my fellow OFWs, in particular — what I know about the Saudi Arabia’s Labor and Workmen Law and the violations by some companies of this law. By and large, this article is hoped to embolden OFWs to fight for their rights when trampled upon or stand firm for what they believe is right no matter what happen.
In this article I will use pseudonyms Juan dela Cruz, Juanito de Dios and Juan Enriquez to refer to three of the OFWs who asked me some questions as to how they would go about their situations that caused them to loss interest in their work or made them plan to pre-terminate their contract with their employer.
He was employed by the ABC Company, a manufacturing firm based in the First Industrial City, an economic zone in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and was bound by a three-year contract that was valid until June 16, 2011. He was given an Entry Level Pay (ELP) of SAR 3,000 a month and was, after working for two years, granted a raise of 20% thereof. As evidenced by a total of 10 quarterly performance reports, he was no doubt an excellent employee. Having outperformed 98% of his fellow employees across all ranks in the company, he was recognized as one of The Most Outstanding Employees of the Year for two consecutive years.
Five months before his contract would expire, he applied for final exit to be able to go back to his home country and take care of his wife who was suffering from cancer in its final stage. In spite of his valid reason, his boss, a Lebanese known for his being apathetic and inconsiderate, disapproved his application, saying going on final exit before a contract expires is a breach of contract. He sought the help of HR to have his boss reconsider his decision. To his consternation, HR affirmed the decision of his boss.
Angered by the situation he was in, he, as a form of protest, did not work for three days without notifying his boss of his reason. Upon reporting back for work, he was sanctioned with a six days salary deduction without being given the opportunity to explain his side. To his surprise, less than two months before his contract would expire, he was served a notice of termination without stating therein the reason for terminating him.
Yes, because his company (i.e., the first party to the contract) did not agree to or approve of his decision to go on final exit, thus the contract continues to be valid and enforceable. Under Article 55 of the New Saudi Labor Law (NSLL), “a fixed-term contract shall terminate upon expiration of its term,” except in cases, as provided for under Article 74 of the NSLL, such as “if two parties agree to terminate it, subject to the proviso that the workman’s approval be in writing.”
But if he would insist on leaving the ABC Company in the absence of an agreement to this effect, he could be held liable to pay them all the expenses incurred in recruiting him to work for them. These are as follows:
Was Juan dela Cruz’s reason for pre-terminating his contract valid? Why?
Actually, it can be answered by either yes or no since the reason he proffered is still subject to evaluation by his company, from which he sought approval. Besides, his reason is not among the reasons listed under Article 81 of the New Saudi Labor Law, which are as follows:
No, though the penalty, which is fine, meted out to him is one of those enumerated under Article 66 of the New Saudi Labor Law (NSLL), because in order for fine to be legally acceptable as a penalty, it should, according to Article 70 of the NSLL, be equivalent to no more than the workman’s wage for five days. Further, as he was not properly notified of the offense he had been charged with before a disciplinary action was imposed upon him, he can seek a reconsideration from his company’s Employee Relations and Development Section or lodge a complaint with the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes, pursuant to Article 71 of the NSLL, which states, thus: “A disciplinary action shall be applied to the workman only after written notification of the accusations, interrogations, defense and establishment of the guilt in a report to be deposited in his personal file. The interrogation may be verbal in minor infringements, the penalty for which does not go beyond a warning or deduction of one day salary, which fact shall also be document in the report.”
Yes, because the termination was without a legal basis. His insistence that came on the heels of the vehement rejection by his boss of his application for final exit is merely an exercise of his basic rights as an employee and cannot be considered a legally admissible reason to terminate him from work. In case of pre-termination of contract, it is understood that the rights of both parties are respected, in which case there is no reason for any of them to claim said pre-termination is prejudicial to their interest. When Juan dela Cruz decided to severe ties with his employer, it was simply because of the situation of his ailing wife. His boss, under whom he worked with fealty, did not seem to understand what he had been going through. He must have come up with a decision to terminate Juan dela Cruz in order to make him change his mind or to avoid paying severance pay to him. Owing to the fact that Juan dela Cruz was terminated for an invalid reason, he was entitled to indemnity to be assessed by the Commission for the Settlement of Legal Disputes, provided termination circumstances are to be taken into consideration in such an assessment.
For the sake of discussion, Juan dela Cruz could be terminated without an award, advance notice or indemnity under the following circumstances:
Juan dela Cruz was deemed resigned, not terminated. As such, he would be entitled to one third of the award provided for under Article 84 of the New Saudi Labor Law because his service period is not less than two consecutive years and not more than five years. As he joined the ABC Company on June 16, 2008 and left the company on March 16, 2011, his length of service is two years and 10 months or 34 months and his severance pay should be computed, thus:
If only Juan dela Cruz had decided to leave the company only upon the expiration of his contract, his severance pay would have been higher, as shown below:
The difference of the severance pay in cases of contract expiration and resignation:
But to Juan dela Cruz, his family matters more than money. Thus, he opted to leave the company before his contract expired because of his wife even if that means a significantly lower severance pay.
Juanito de Dios was a native of Samar, Leyte, a province situated in Visayas, one of the three geographical regions in the Philippines, along with Luzon and Mindanao. He was working in one of the country’s biggest mining companies until he was offered in 1992 a job in Dammam, Saudi Arabia by a college classmate, their company’s HR Specialist. A graduate of BS in Electronics and Communications Engineering from a well-reputed sectarian university in the Philippines, he held the position of Design Engineer and took, along with his three teammates, the responsibility of designing multimillion low current systems such as Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), Security System, Access Control System, Fire Alarm System, Public Address System, among others, for their clients in the Kingdom and in other GCC areas as well. Like Juan dela Cruz, he enjoyed working with his colleagues, who are also Filipinos. Most of the design engineers in their department are Filipinos because their department manager, who, though a Lebanese, prefer to hire Filipinos, saying Filipinos are hardworking and easy to deal with.
Like Juan dela Cruz, he showed a beyond-par performance, which made him qualify for the company’s Ten Outstanding Employees of the Year. In 2005, he was promoted to Technical Section Manager. As such, he had received plaques of recognition from their company’s vice president for the successful completion of all their big projects. Unluckily, in early 2009, after having a heated argument with his department manager regarding one big project (with their client, an oil and gas company), he was demoted to Design Engineer, without giving him a chance to refute the charge of gross negligence against him. Corollarily, his take-home pay was reduced by a fourth of his previous, a circumstance that caused him to lose his interest in his job. He was, yes, badly affected that he incurred a lot of absences and his performance level plummeted.
It can be and can be not. It can be because gross negligence is more than enough to downgrade a managerial employee like him. We don’t know how grossly negligent Juanito de Dios was of his job and how his company defines gross negligence. But as due process was apparently not observed, the penalty of demotion is deemed improper and unjust. For due process can be said to have been observed if an employee is given an opportunity to explain why he should not be meted out such a penalty as demotion (which should, in most cases, be resorted to when a mere sanction of censure or suspension is not enough). In the case of Juanito de Dios, the penalty of demotion smacked apparently of being a result of an argument than of his being grossly negligent of his job, especially that he was demoted right after that fateful incident and that his explanation was not asked. It is also worth noting that as defined under Article 71 of the NSLL, due process is observed if a disciplinary action is applied to the workman only after written notification of the accusations, interrogation, defense and establishment of the guilt in a report to be deposited in his personal file.”
First, he should meet with his department manager and discuss with him his objection to the sanction of demotion. This is because it is the intention of the NSLL to have cases like this to be settled amicably first between the employer and employee before the same shall be reported to the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes.
Second, in case no amicable settlement is reached, he should, under Article 72 of the NSLL, report — within 15 days (excluding official holidays) from the date of delivery of the final decision — his case to the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes, which shall be required to issue its decision within thirty days from the date the objection was registered.
Unfortunately, Juanito de Dios (maybe because of too much worries and disappointments he has about his case) was admitted to the hospital for more than a month. He was suffering from a recurring but curable illness that requires a convalescing period for three to four months. When he reported back for work for more or less three months, he was taken aback by the decision of his department manager not to allow him to return to work, saying he is no longer needed in his department.
Yes. Granting it is not, then what can we call it? The fact that he is no longer allowed to enter the company premises and that his department manager told him that he is no longer needed by his department is already an indication that he is terminated from work. Where there is no due process, the termination is deemed illegal, in which case Juanito de Dios can file a suit against his employer with the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes within 15 days after his department manager told him he is no longer needed in his department. Moreover, if it was because of his illness, it cannot still be a ground for terminating him unless there is, according to Article 78 of the NSLL, a medical certificate that indicates his incapacity from continuing to work. Apparently, he did not resign but was forced to stop working against his will, in which case he was deemed constructively dismissed.
Yes. It is what the New Saudi Labor Law says. But if I were Juanito de Dios, I would rather leave the company and seek a job in another company. It is apparent that his work relationship with his department manager will never be the same as before and he will just be unhappy, thus stressed, to work under his department manager. Practical decision is needed in a situation like this.
Situation 4 – UNPAID OVERTIME WORK
Hailed from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, Juan Enriquez has worked as a welder/fabricator for a certain company for almost 5 years with a salary of SR1,500 a month and has not received an increase. He is required to work 14 hours a day, but his overtime pay is fixed at only 4 hours a day, which means he has an unpaid OT work of 2 hours a day.
To get the total OT hours he rendered in his 5 years in service, we will multiply 5 by 314, then by 2 (OT hours per day).
5 x 314 x 2 = 3,140 hours (if 2 hours per day)
With a salary of SR1,500 per month, his OT rate per hour is SR 9.375 (i.e., SR1,500 / 30 / 8 x 1.50). Thus,
3,140 x SR9.375 = SR 29,437.50 (i.e, P332,643.80, if the exchange rate is P11.30)
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia, who are faced with the same situations, may report not only to the Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes but also to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh so that they can ask for assistance therefrom. For their contact numbers, click this link: http://www.philembassy-riyadh.
On one particular Friday (that was last week), I went with a bunch of friends to Al Ramaniya Mall – the famous hangout of Filipinos – in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia and had, as usual, the chance to prattle (as in, to talk about our harrowing experiences at work in so insouciant a manner as to at least find a temporary relief of our boredom) with my fellow Filipinos. To my surprise, what was supposed to be a mere yap on this day turned into a serious discussion of our experiences that must have warranted a random, if not regular, check by the Philippine Embassy into some companies employing Filipinos.
Unexpectedly, the following became the meat of our discussion.
According to John (not his real name), his company did not give him a copy of his employment contract upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia, claiming that he could ask for it only in due time (i.e., when he needs it for a certain purpose) and that he could do so through the system they call ERP or Baan (which is equivalent to the Human Resources Information System that is usually used by the Philippine companies) subject to the approval of the HR Manager.
I told him the approval of the HR Manager is [supposedly] not required because it is a legally settled fact that both parties to a contract, whether related to employment or whatsoever, must each have a copy thereof, and it is applicable not only in Saudi Arabia but in all other countries as well.
In Saudi Arabia, I told him further that it is specifically set forth under Article 77 of its Labor and Workmen Law that “labor contract must be in writing, drawn up in Arabic and in duplicate to be retained by each of the two parties.” It is, however, the practice that the labor contract is written in both English and Arabic.
Taking a further look into Article 77, it is stated that one’s employment may not necessarily be under a written contract but he can demand at a later time for a written contract. What is perplexing to note, however, is that the onus of proof lies with the employee, as can be read in the same article, which says, “However, even though it is not written, a contract shall be considered existent, so that the workman alone may by all means of proof establish his rights.”
Jokingly, I told him it should not matter, because what is important is, you are paid a monthly salary, as agreed.
But what startled me is, he was supposedly hired as a secretary but is actually assigned as a storekeeper. When asked why he did not complain, he told me with a snap of desperation: “Wala na koy mahimo, bay. Naa man ko diri. Ako nalang antoson (I cannot do something about my case, my friend. I am already here [in Saudi Arabia]. So I must bear with it).”
I am pretty sure his case is not unprecedented. In our company, there is this one Indian hired as a secretary but deployed as a production helper. But unlike him, the latter is a graduate of a bachelor’s degree who does not possess the required linguistic proficiency and computer skills, to the director’s chagrin.
They would not have experienced this if only their company had strictly followed the law: “A workman shall perform the work required of him pursuant to labor contract.”
Not only was John reassigned as a storekeeper; he has been working for a maximum of 12 hours a day for more than a year. Disappointingly, he claimed he has not since been paid an overtime pay for his overtime work that run up to, more or less, four hours a day. Granting that he joined his company on September 1, 2010 (meaning, his length of service is one year and six months, or 18 months) with a salary of SAR 1500 a month and that he is rendering four hours overtime work, he should have earned on top of his basic earning, thus:OT Hours Worked: 18 months x 26 = 468 days (26 days per month) 468 days x 4 = 1872 hours (OT work is 4 hours a day) OT Pay Per Hour: SAR 1,500 / 30 / 8 = SAR 6.25 (Regular hourly rate) 6.25 + (6.25 * 0.5) = SAR 9.375 (OT Pay Rate per hour) OT Pay: 1872 x 9.375 = SAR17,550 (equivalent to P198,315, computed based on P11.30 per SAR)
With P198,315, John could have bought a parcel of land with an area of 132.21 square meters for P1500 per square meter or could have built a decent house (if he doesn’t have one).