IT seemed like only a week or so ago when we all welcomed 2016 into our lives. As February draws to a close, many of us are again probably left wondering: where have all those days gone?
February may be the shortest month in the Western calendar, but for a number of reasons it happens to be a poignant and eventful one for myself as well as for the nation—think EDSA Revolution.
For one, it happens to be my birth month. Ever since I was a child, I knew that I would turn a year older soon after the new year rolls in. But unlike my January-born friends, February celebrants like me are given the luxury of lingering a bit longer before adding another candle to our birthday cakes.
Layer of significance
Since 2015, February gained another layer of significance for me and my family, as it also happens to be the month when my father left us. I don’t readily ascribe hidden meaning to seemingly random events. But of all the months in the year, my father had passed away one cool, sunny Sunday in February last year. It was as if he was just waiting for his firstborn to turn 50 before leaving this world. I miss you terribly, Daddy.
My family and I marked the end of our year-long mourning period or babang luksa a week ago with prayers and a small get-together at home with friends and relatives. I made sure I invited my father’s close friends from his decades-long work in our parish church and his caregivers during his final days.
The pain of his passing is still there, but slowly, it is being replaced by a sense of celebration and gratitude for a life well lived. As a treat to myself, I capped off the end of my mourning by watching Madonna last Wednesday with three of my closest friends.
After a year of wearing black, white and gray clothes, I finally got to wear a red top with white, blue and maroon accents to the concert. To a fashion watcher like me, such deliberate sartorial choices are significant. One of my friends even likened my shirt’s colors to that of the Philippine flag. Unbeknownst to all of us, it was the Material Girl who would pull off the evening’s biggest surprise by wrapping herself up in an actual Philippine flag during her finale.
What was supposed to be a symbol of gratitude and protection in most Western countries, Madonna’s flag-draping exercise didn’t sit well with certain public guardians of an antiquated flag law. They threatened to have her banned from reentering the Philippines for failing to publicly explain what she did. For her die-hard fans, her decision to perform in Manila was a once-in-a-lifetime event. I doubt very much if she’s coming back.
My conservative father would have frowned on Madonna’s irreverence and constant reference to sex and her lapsed Catholic faith, but he liked her music. He admired her for her musicality and I guess her ability to choose the right materials that would complement her pleasant but rather limited vocal range. I’m sure I had my Dad’s blessings for blowing away a rather huge sum in exchange for two hours of pure, unadulterated entertainment and a trip down memory lane.
It was also on the eve of February, January 29 to be exact, when I officially learned that the newspaper I have been connected with for almost 30 years was about to retire me. In fact, I wouldn’t have known my actual status had I not sought out the person tasked to deliver to us boiler plate letters thanking us for our supposed loyalty and valuable contributions to the company.
Actually, I wasn’t totally shocked by such a development because I expected it as early as last year since our tenure as employees, as stated in the collective bargaining agreement between management and union, is limited to 30 years or as soon as we reach 65 years of age, whichever comes first.
But retiring employees would have been unprecedented since the paper had yet to turn 30 then. All that change when the company finally turned 30 last December 9 and decided to retire the first batch of employees who had worked for it since Day 1. A precedent has been set. From then on, the company has begun retiring regular employees, with a few notable exceptions, who have given it three decades of service.
I officially joined the paper on March 4, 1986. By March 5 of this year, I, at 51, will be officially jobless after having spent the best 30 years of my life and virtually my entire adulthood with this paper. Such a treatment may sound ironic and even downright cruel to not a few people, but if you come down to it, that’s just the way the corporate world works.
For all its avowals of taking care of its employees like a family, it treats people as nothing more than one of the four factors of production. Even if they still have several good years left to give the organization, employees have to be discarded once they get a bit too old or too expensive to employ.
My experience is far from unique, really. But is it right? It depends on whom you ask. More than anything else, I’m thankful to have gone this far. I’m not the type who would dwell on things I have no control over. I’d rather pick up the pieces and forge ahead. These twin approaches to life have kept me sane and even allowed me to thrive over the years. I have no reason to believe that they would fail me now.