Sunday, September 03, 2006

Manong Boie's Advice to Young People

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We rented a local tourist van for the recent trip we took in the Bicol region and his name was Manong Boie (yes, it is spelled like that). 6 towns in 2 days equates to a whole lot of driving . And I know that the longer the travel, the more personal the conversation becomes. I enjoy those dialogues because I learn different perspectives on life. Just take for example the latest gleanings I got from our retired engineer turned tourist guide/ van driver.

H's 62 years old with three children. His youngest is in high school, his oldest is 25 years old and holds a PhD. degree. He's originally from Bulacan, but upon finding the woman he loved, he married her and moved to her hometown in Legaspi City. They raised their family there and through toil and sweat they managed to provide for the eduation of their kids.

He often expressed his amazement about how "on-the-go" we were. He compared us to robots running on compressed and almost bottomless energy. I think he meant that in a good way. It's true that we were able to accomplish a lot of things during that trip; to think we just came fresh from Sagada, Batangas and Manila doing the same exacting tasks, I guess it can quite impress people that we haven't dropped dead yet.

He showed a lot of concern for us though --- concern for our health which we told him our parents do enough of already. More than that though, he also expressed his worry about our personal lives.

Mang Boie's advice was we should not get too deeply committed to our jobs. His remark wasn't sexist in anyway, he did not imply that as women we should not work as hard as men. But he did say that there are things we must keep in mind. In the course of 2 days, I have gathered all of them and I now present them to you as a list. :)

1. Get a Masteral Degree. He was impressed that I graduated from UP, but he adviced that I should not be contented with that. In three or five years, my undergraduate degree would be useless, he said. Update your skills and upgrade yourself, just like computers. After the M.A. aim for a Ph.D. That would get you the respect you need to do what you need to do.

2. Young people do not need to work abroad to make something of themselves. They can make themselves useful right here. It's just that to stay here in the Philippines and make a living, one would have to be a strong woman or man. They have to be smarter, wittier, faster thinking on their feet and more innovative to become successful. The real challenge, he says, is not to brood and toil thousands of miles away from home. The most difficult thing to do is to stay in the country and make a life.

3. He noted that our job entails a lot of hard work and he said he could only imagine the stress we subject ourselves to. His advice is save personal time for ourselves, no matter how difficult it is. The best way to deal with stress is to find a healthy outlet. Some people go to the gym, some people sing in videoke bars, while some just sleep. He told me it's good that I love to read because I can bring my stress-reliever anywhere.

4. Do not be taken up with overused standards of beauty. In the provinces, I stand out like a sore thumb. I'm taller than most people there and larger in width and breadth. Mang Boie said quite frankly that, yes, I am large and people would always notice me whether I like it or not. I must be doing something right though because he said I must never change the way I carry myself. He said the attention I generate can be utilized for better means, like making friends. And since I'm tall enough and big enough to command their attention, I can also command their respect. Big people are natural leaders. It's just that some "chubby" people choose to hide inside themselves because of their fear of scrutiny. And because they let other people impose what being beautiful, and even what being normal, means.

5. Young women with complicated jobs (like ours, he cited), must try their utmost to be married by the age of 25. He told us a lot of boys find it intimidating to approach girls who seem to have it together. And if we do follow his advice to get an MA and a PhD, we'd even be more intimidating. He cited a lot of successful women who have remained single all their lives because they scare potential suitors away. He even went as far as showing us the house of a successful Doktora in Legazpi who is now 48 years old and lives alone in her humongous house with just the maids and a pet dog. That's a bit of a cautionary tale he went to great extents to relay to us. :)

Amongst all his advice, the last one was the only one I have a problem with. I know he spoke as a father and as a man though, and one would be wise not to easily dismiss it as backward thinking. If there are other people who thinks the same way he does, and worst, if they make up a large part of the population, then it's a very clear and present reality. I don't know if this struck me because it's yet another box I don't fit into. I'll be turning 25 in January and --- well, people who know me would know I've a long way to go before I marry. To marry would mean to actually bind oneself to someone for the rest of my life. I have no problem with the binding thing, my problem is the someone to be bound to. Hehe. :D If I find the guy before Jauary, I have no problem about getting married. It's just that I cannot see myself finding a lesser alterative just to fit other people's perceptual impositions.

These advices I'll keep in mind, filed away as "Alternative Perspective." It's useful once in a while because it gives you a frequency you can tune into when trying to figure out human behavior and thinking.

Don't worry, Mang Boie, I won't forget what you told me. And thank you for sharing what you've learned through your 62 years on earth to us. We may not always take all of your advice as truth, but it is a piece of puzzle that joins up with other personal truths. In the end, I'll have a complete picture of how life really is and your words would be part of it.