One Morning In The Philippines

So this morning's commute was interesting. I was riding a cholorum shuttle (right spelling?; and no other legit transpo was available, btw), which was being driven by a police officer. No idea if the police driver owned the car being used as a shuttle - which was a Toyota Fortuner.

And the passenger in front had a son who was a policeman as well - so they naturally started talking. And so, over the morning commute, I got to know a lot about the police driver.

He hails from Ilocos and will drive the Fortuner to Ilocos today - Friday, May 10 - and back again to Manila after the election (so it looks like he has at least liberal use of it, if he doesn't own it). And he owns a piggery in Ilocos. It's a big enough business that he can hire someone to do the daily work while his parents there just supervises.

He also believes in investing. He has a child, still young, and is preparing for his future education. His plan (already in action) is to buy land. His thinking is that keeping it in the bank isn't a good idea as it can easily be spent. With land, his thinking goes, you can't squander it piece by piece. And when you need the money, just sell it and you get a big lump sum.

He's also planning for retirement. Apparently, even when he was young, he liked going into business. So his plan is to just open a swimming pool resort after completing his 20 years of service and getting his retirement money. He even mentioned he has already bought the land for it - I'm not sure if it's the same land he was going to sell for his child's education or a different parcel of land altogether. And even this early he's already visualizing what the resort will look like.

So I have really mixed feelings about this - and a whole lot of questions.

Who owns the Fortuner? How much did that land cost? How did he get capital for a piggery business and money for the land? How much does a police officer make?

On one hand, I'm happy. A simple police officer is going to end up as a comfortably well-off resort owner. And even if he turns out to be corrupt, he won't be abusing power for long, as he'll be a business owner with at least semi-passive income. Plus, it's also plausible that he started small, worked hard, was smart about taking opportunities and is now well on his way to a nice life.

Of course, since he's a police officer that moonlights as a cholorum driver, I'd rather just forget about the whole thing.

And then near lunchtime I was at city hall. One woman ahead of the line was complaining and passive-aggressively antagonizing the government employee manning the booth. And so, yeah, I got to hear another mini-story.

Yesterday, she was in city hall. Apparently she's from a far away place (Dasmarinas), and came to the city hall to get someone's (I think her nephew's) certificate (I think birth certificate).

To do so she would need and authorization letter from the parents, parent's ID and her own ID. She didn't have the authorization letter. So she did the next best thing - made known that she has relatives working in city hall, asked the relative to help her plead her case, and generally expected that the Filipino way of palakasan will work out for her. It didn't; she had to come back the next day with an authorization letter.

Fast forward to today. She's there, facing the same clerk/government employee and starts off with a sorrowful sounding apology that went something like "Sorry I was being pesky yesterday. I could tell you were getting annoyed with me. You see we had travelled a long distance..."

To his credit the government employee retained a professional - if emotionless - countenance and voice. This was just business, of course. The lady would not be deterred however, and pretty soon was proclaiming her tale to anyone who could hear. Snippets of which are:

"Hopefully you are just as strict with other people.... I was born here... I did not expect I would be treated like this... I have relatives working here... This was the only time I asked for a favor... It's just an authorization letter; I traveled a great distance and they couldn't even just grant my request... But when it comes to their friends, their neighbors (implying that such people are granted special favors)"

Personally, even though it sounds mean, I'm very happy and very pleased that she didn't get her way. I feel bad that she traveled all the way from Dasmarinas only to find out she was missing a requirement. But I'm more than happy that she didn't get special treatment just because she had relatives working inside city hall. And I'm even happier that the people there heard it as well.

Palakasan, and Palakad are two of the worst things I hate with our government. Let people line up and suffer, that way people with clout will also experience it. And then the focus will be on making the system more efficient, rather than getting to know the right person inside.

Of course, now I'm just confounded. Someone I think might be corrupt was doing something smart (investing, preparing for retirement), while someone, who for all I know could be the nicest person in the world, was trying to bend the system and generally approaching a problem the wrong way - the solution is know, prepare, and then do - not "phone a friend".

What can we learn? Not much, except that being smart will get you ahead, even if you aren't protagonist material, while being a martyr (or portraying yourself as one) won't get you anything worthwhile.

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  1. The things we overhear nga naman in our daily commute and while falling in line :)