When bloggers meet to save the world

When bloggers meet and discuss about plans to save the world from the Apocalypse or the Armageddon (depending on which testament of the Bible one is keen on reading), one will inevitably question whether this group of passionate people is indeed capable of doing such daunting task.

Obviously, none of them is.

These bloggers, sensing the obvious incredulity of this objective observer (in my person, definitely) ‘embedded’ among them, will then decide to alter the agenda of the meeting a little. So instead of salvaging the world from its demise they’ll all try to have a consensus on sponsoring a Saturday party that will be attended by a famous celebrity from Manila.

When I started blogging, the first thing I had to hurdle was differentiating myself from the rest of the crowded blogosphere. As in all fields, it is important to set what makes me unique; what I can offer that others can not; what I know that others do not know; and in some rare cases, how I can say things that only I can say with conviction, humor, authority, or voice. But eventually I found out that the web is just too big, almost infinitely vast, that while it encourages diversity and differences, it inadvertently spurs uniformity. And paradoxically, the more I try my best to be distinct, the more I unknowingly fall into the pit of trite pastiches of blogging.

Seeing other bloggers in the act of mirroring each other, they mirroring me, I mirroring them (no matter how hard I deny, dislike, and hate the exercise) is a humbling experience.

They gather around a round table like King Arthur’s Knights of, the last time I heard, Round Table but which now is not limited to this shape as a rectangle, square or oval will perfectly do. They will then proceed with the review of the minutes from the last meeting which unfortunately is lost by somebody they appointed as secretary. Unable to proceed which will never be the case, they will proceed with the discussion of pertinent issues anyway.

First, somebody holding a piece of email printout waving it to the crowd as if to say, “Hey somebody emailed me that there will be an activity (the email was sent to my address, am I that popular) on Sunday”, presumably this person is the president, will ask if any of the bloggers present in the meeting will be available to cover an event sponsored by a company, say a cake company.

If the task is simply about tasting to-be-introduced confection, as a rule, none will volunteer as most bloggers are not the assertive kind. On the date of cake tasting, however, the cake company will have to brace its personnel for the arrival, en mass, of self proclaimed cake tasters made up of all the bloggers present during the meeting in question.

Definitely, they will do honest, comprehensive, and exhaustive write-ups about everything they saw, heard, felt, smelled, and, of course, tasted during that day. They will take note of everything down to the most inconspicuous details such as the bow ties of the waiters being improperly placed, what was said by a certain expert on social deviance about the cakes being indicators of people’s decadence, or a provincial police inspector’s statement about cakes being a positive reinforcement in maintaining peace and order; and no one, as a tradition, will miss making comments about the weather that day in his blog. Some of the most overeager kind will take photos of the sky that day and relate it to the success of the cake tasting endeavor.

Speaking of photos, since it is a meeting, food and beverages should be served. Not wanting to miss a blogging opportunity on his lap, somebody will pull his 5.1 megapixels Nikon digital camera to take photos of the ‘outrageously delicious cinnamon rolls’, ‘the out-of-this-world cappuccino’, and the truly Ilonggo friendliness of the waiters in the coffee shop where the meeting is being held.

Not wanting to be outdone, somebody, the self-proclaimed photoblogger most of the time, will remove his state-of-the art DSLR camera from its leather case for the people in the entire room to behold. Without any regard for decency, he’ll take macro shots of those rolls, mugs of coffee, and the waiters, with flashes of his camera at their brightest, temporarily rendering some innocent members of the quorum who are unfortunately seated near him blind.

And so the meeting continues and the discussion about how to save the world forgotten or shelved until such time that the ‘embedded’ blogger decides that he has enough of the baloney and leaves the place, giving the rest peace of mind and leaving with them with the security of thoughts that their unique position in the grand scheme of the blogging universe is preserved until their next post where in they will lambast that ‘embedded blogger’ until nothing is left of him but a negligible dark pixel in the constellation of the great Ilonggo bloggers.

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The face of ‘assembly line production’

Coffee

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It was around midnight; we were sitting outside one of the many cheap coffee shops that line the pavement in front of the employees’ entrance of Dole Philipines in Sta. Cruz Village more popularly called Tondo because of its resemblance to a district in Manila where it got its name.

I was having coffee with two of my high school classmates who just arrived from Cebu after their review and passing the recent Mechanical Engineering board exam. As what was proper, we talked about our plans for the future, the changes we’re undergoing, and the mounting responsibilities awaiting us. We all agreed that if there’s one thing that makes us happy despite the daunting tasks ahead it’s our youth along with our unwavering hope for what is ahead. Although we’re the same starry eyed high school students who used to roam the narrow streets of Tondo more than six years ago, nothing much has changed, only this time we are in a better position to realize those dreams.

With us were Dole employees who were having their midnight coffee break from work, some of them were even wearing their head caps and hair nets from work as if the time they will spend taking off these oddly-colored cotton caps used to keep their hair from contaminating the pineapples during canning will take away precious seconds from their 15- or 30-minute break. Some faces were familiar.  Some of them have been former schoolmates in the nearby public high school where I studied. But most were like faces described by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his turn-of-the-century novels: tired, blank, resigned, devoid of any emotion – not even sadness or grief.

After having sipped the remaining coffee from my cup, a heard a familiar voice calling my name. He was a batch mate. This I was certain of because only people close to me and studied at the same time with me call me ‘Fev’. I was surprised because although the voice was familiar, the impression of the origin of the voice was not. I was only able to confirm that the source of the voice was a former schoolmate after the light from the street lamp above us lighted his face. But he has drastically changed. He grew his hair to shoulder length, wore a pair of jeans more suited to a woman, and developed a more rounded and feminine body.

He was on his way home and interestingly, like other employees that time, was still wearing his head cap. I told him to join and have coffee with us. He hesitated at first but after some prodding and curious questions about his obvious transformation, he yielded and promised to stay for the next thirty minutes.

He is currently working for a job agency that partners with Dole Philippines by providing contractual workers that are paid less than regular company-hired employees and with limited benefits. He is being paid ‘pakyawan’; meaning, unlike regular employees that are paid by the hour, this former schoolmate and his team are paid based on the total work done for their shift.

According to him, a line, usually composed of around twenty employees, has to finish 100 bins of papayas that are initially steamed using a machine that softens the skin; then the fruits are peeled by the next team. Another group removes the seeds; still another does further peeling, then cutting these cleaned papayas into cubes for canning.

Papaya

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Each of these bins contains 50 genetically modified papayas that can be as big as a six-month old baby. This line of work, my friend added, does not follow a strict 8-hour work day as their work productivity is gauged using the number of bins dispatched to the canning department. The team can work for less than eight hours a day if it finishes the 100 bins within that time, but this is something that seldom happens. During slow days, the work can take as long as 10 hours. He receives 500 pesos a day, without overtime pay.

His task is to remove the seeds, which according to him, is not at all that difficult and which he  is really good at, except that it requires him to lift the papaya boats to remove all the seeds. This was the reason why he had to stop taking estrogen to complete his transformation, as the hormone made him less powerful in lifting big papaya boats.

He was joking about his work, but I knew his work was not a joking matter. It was like the odd-looking head caps they wear at work, during breaks, and even on their way home after a tiring shift – funny but dead serious.

He said he will be resigning by January of next year and find a better work prospect either in Davao or Cebu City.

After six years, we met again almost like strangers; parted ways, even more stranger to the kind of life each lives. This time the disconnect between us and the kind of work each does has become even greater. Although we know a snippet of each other’s, none of us will fully understand what he is or I am doing.