The Pandemic

It’s been a year and a half
Of a topsy turvy life.
Wishing for a miracle
And blessings that others would sprinkle
Some take it as a gamble
Praying that they would not stumble
Hoping for a smooth journey
To provide well for their family
Some gained weight and others lose
Some are in misery while others rejoice
A few wonder about what life really is
Children are clueless about the world that they miss
Most of us dream of an end to all of these
And return to the days of fun and bliss
While we are not there yet
Let’s hold on to our faith
Be good to everyone
Play fair in the best way you can
Life is uncertain
No one knows our final curtain
Always be a good person
With love and smile memories to leave on

Tagalog Version

Ang Pandemya

Isa’t kalahating taon
Ng paurong-sulong
Umaasa sa himala
Ang iba’y sa pagpapala
May mga sumusugal
Tanging baon ay dasal
Sa pakikipagsapalaran
Upang pamilya’y matustusan
May nanaba, may namayat
May namighati, may nagalak
May nagkabati, may naghiwalay
May napapaisip sa buhay kung ano ang saysay
Mga sanggol kailan lang
Natigil ang mundo sa tahanan
Kinalakhan ang bagong normal
Napakaraming ibinabawal
May nangangarap ng katapusan
Ng pandemya’t karamdaman
Umaasang makakabalik
Sa mga panahong sa pasyal ay hitik
Habang tayo’y wala pa doon
Kumapit lang sa Panginoon
Maging mabuti sa kapwa
Wag magsamantala’t mangawawa
Dahil buhay nati’y walang katiyakan
Sabi nga’y una-una lang
Maging mabuting tao lagi
Mag-iwan ng pagmamahal at ngiti


The Pains and Gains of Freelancing

I signed up for a freelancing website in 2017, hoping to get a gig. I got the idea from a high school classmate who, until now, is doing well as a freelancer. Almost four years ago, the demand for freelancers was not that high. The clients’ requirements did not fit into my qualifications as a manufacturing engineer. Hence, I had a very slim chance then to land a job.

Pre-covid, I wanted to spend more time with my young children, and what a better way to do that than to find a source of income in the comforts of our home. Four years ago, most Pinoy freelancers had little idea of what a Virtual Assistant is. Perhaps, some would even get confused about the roles of a Social Media Marketer. I’m pretty sure that only a few could answer about the difference between Amazon’s FBA versus FBS. Time is continuously changing and upgrading, especially in 2020, when the pandemic hit us. Today, E-Commerce becomes one of the most promising careers, and the influx of professionals wanting to become Virtual Assistants rocked the freelancing industry. On top of this, it looks like the Work From Home set-up made the companies realize that it is possible to have a productive and efficient remote workforce. (A reliable internet connection is another story.)

Of course, being a freelancer means knowing what you can bring to the client’s table. Just like working in a traditional workplace, a freelancer ought to have the right skills for the right job. Otherwise, you will start at the bottom. No worries, that’s fine as long as you are flexible and hardworking. Learn as many tools as possible because freelancers are working on their own. Most of the clients have limited time to even talk with you regularly. So don’t be surprised, too, if they ask you to install apps to monitor your daily tasks. Sample of these time and productivity tracking apps are Timeproof and Hubstaff. Some clients are very particular about the confidentiality of their data. Instead of these tracking apps, they would require you to connect to their company laptop or server and do the job from there. (Again, a reliable internet connection is another story.) If being “monitored” bothers you, you can accept jobs per project. Projects do not pay by the hour and do not require these time and productivity tracking apps. These jobs pay by the quality and delivery of your output, like logo design, video editing, and IT-related jobs like web design and development.

Those who think that being a freelancer means “owning” your time, I hope that you find a client that has a similar mindset. Some clients do not care about time and productivity as long as you do your job well. On the other hand, some jobs require your time and full attention to the whole shift, so babysitting while working may not work out. There is also the issue of getting multiple clients on the same work shift. If it’s okay with your client, then go for it. Otherwise, pick the best client and drop the rest. Make it a goal to produce only the best output for your clients because they hired us to do the job.

Cultural and language differences can be tricky and challenging at the beginning of your client-contractor relationship. To establish a good rapport with your client, do a little research about their culture and work ethics. Maintain a professional but friendly working relationship. Clients from the US generally prefer to be called by their first names and avoid the formality that “Ma’am” or “Sir” brings in. If they insist to be called Mr. or Miss or Mrs. plus their last name, it is okay, too.

Forget about the Philippine holidays once you become a freelancer. If you are used to spending your local holidays, get used to working during most Philippine holidays. Overtime pay for a holiday does not apply to freelancers. Well, some generous clients give holiday pay, though. If you are excited about the 13th- month pay, remember that freelancers do not have it. Freelancers pay their SSS, Philhealth, and PAGIBIG contributions out of their own pocket. So the goal here is to increase your hourly $ rate so that you can afford to go on a holiday and pay your SSS, Philhealth, and PAGIBIG contributions. Don’t forget to get a life or health insurance, too. If you are earning more than PhP30,000 a month, you need to pay your taxes.

Most contractors run after Australian clients because of the narrow difference between our time zones. Most clients come from the US so ready yourself to work on a graveyard shift. Graveyard shift takes a lot of effort and determination to embrace and love. The advantage of a graveyard shift is a quieter environment and a faster internet connection. If background noise is an issue for your client, there are noise-cancellation headsets available in the market.

In summary, being a freelancer is a choice as much as working on a traditional work set-up is an option. If you are tired of things like long transportation to work, dressing up, leaving your young kids to the yaya alone, then freelancing might be the right job for you. Just remember that it is not all pain (lifestyle adjustment, lack of clients, low hourly rate), there are also gains in the end.

Christmas in the Philippines

My client of three months asked me this morning about my holiday plans. I asked him back if it’s okay not to report to work tonight (December 24th) and tomorrow night (December 25th) because I intend to be absent on December 31st and January 1st. After 12 hours, he replied that it’s okay for me to take my holidays during the said dates.

Since I started my freelancing journey in September, I became exposed to a whole new world of online employment opportunities and that includes learning new culture and tradition that I need to know, too to adapt. I am aware that in the US, Christmas is not as celebrated as how we do it here in the Philippines. Surprisingly, my client seemed to be aware of our tradition which was why he brought up the topic.

They say that it is only in the Philippines where Christmas starts during the “ber-months.” As early as September, houses, and establishments put on their Christmas decors to induce that magical feeling of the Yuletide season. By now, everyone knows that Christmas is not complete without hearing the songs of Jose Mari Chan with “Christmas in Our Hearts” as his most notable composition. Some people take advantage of the mid-year sale to maximize their gift-giving. Certainly, this trend would change more in the coming years because of the online shopping promos of Lazada and Shopee (hello, 10-10, 11-11, and 12-12 sale!)

Christmas countdown is such a big deal in the Philippines and most of us sacrifice our sleep schedule for Noche Buena. Noche Buena is a mid-night dinner where the stars of the table are the lechong baboy (roasted pig), hamonado (ham), quezo de bola (cheese), and fruit salad. To those who cannot afford any of these, pancit and a loaf of bread will do because the important thing is the presence of the beloved members of the family for the Noche Buena. After eating, gift-giving follows. When I was still living with my parents and siblings, we put the gifts under the Christmas tree and do the exchanging after the Noche Buena. You guess it right that when we were younger, I and my siblings thought that those gifts came from Santa Claus!
In our family, we needed to sleep before 3 AM to have enough energy for the day’s events. As early as 7 AM, my parents’ inaanak (godchildren) would knock on our door for their pamasko (Christmas present). When I say inaanak, I mean the presence of 50 children and above depending on their karay-karay (companion). My mother patiently entertained each one of them while I kept myself busy inside the room as those days were my super shy days.

Lunchtime meant going to my grandmother’s house for a family reunion. Well, in our case, we used to see our relatives every weekend so it was not a reunion in the real essence of the word. But yes, some families who live apart look forward to Christmas for their family reunion. This tradition affects so many Filipino families now because of the pandemic. In my case, my hometown imposed a 14-day quarantine period should we decide to visit my relatives there. From my end, it’s not practical to have that long quarantine period if the visit will only be done in 1 or two days. This means that I would have more time spending on the quarantine than the actual visit and also. As they say, now is the perfect time to take advantage of technology like video conferencing through FB messenger, Meet, Skype, and Zoom.

Christmas would be much different now for most families but the most important thing is regular communication even when there is no occasion. To those who celebrate Christmas, be creative and positive that this too shall pass. And to those who do not celebrate like the adult me, now is our time to relax, do our pending tasks, bond with family, and recharge for the New Year celebration.

Year 2020

Year 2020 Poem
What a challenging year!

I wrote this poem when I was feeling blue. People who personally know me could attest to the many trials that I went through this year. Of course, it is never my nature to announce what’s inside my mind if it involves other people. I avoid telling my issues while I’m on top of my emotions, too.
Without going to the delicate details, I want to share pieces of my unfortunate 2020 and how I managed to trust in the process, forgive, and move on.

Before the pandemic, I lived my life as I programmed it to be. I was a busy mother and a career woman. My father depended on me since my mother passed away a decade ago. I had a huge responsibility both at home and at work. I enjoyed life, no matter how challenging it was occasionally. Friends were there whenever boredom struck. You know, I thought that it was the kind of friendship that would stand the test of times.

Honestly, I was my usual calm self when the Luzon lockdown started. I believed that the lockdown was for the best interest of the majority. Besides, I thought that it would only be temporary. I pretended to be wary of the impending economic crisis in March whenever my close friend in Malaysia opened up about her worries. I believed that the situation was under control and yes, it would just be a little sacrifice before we all get back to normal.

During the third week of the Luzon lockdown, my father succumbed to a heart attack. To make matters worse, the Covid protocol in both our provinces became more strict so I had no choice but to attend his burial through the video call. Until now, I get teary-eyed whenever I remember that day. My father’s death was sudden and without good-byes. Partially, I regret not being able to have spent more time with him because I was busy making money to support him. On the brighter side, I knew that he understood my physical absences, and had Covid did not happen, I planned to spend more time with him in the province starting 2020. I started when I went to visit him in February for his birthday.

To lessen my grief, I attended online training courses on Social Media Management, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing and even Blogging from May to June. I needed to keep myself busy and productive. I registered to jobhunting sites that provide home-based employment for me to know what employers look for in a candidate. It was also around this time when uncertainties about my employment status arose.

I have always been a career-woman and a family woman rolled into one. There were instances when family occasions had to take a back seat because of the demands of my job and my family understood it. My job was the source of my motivation that I could achieve anything in life as long as I had it. Personally and professionally, I got along with anybody at work, they were my second family. Naturally, when I felt that I was about to lose my second family, my initial reactions were grief and sadness. In between my professional issues and mourning for my father’s death, there were other painful incidents that I’d rather not talk about.

What helped me during the uncertain times were the support group that I had like my online mommy group and of course, my family and real friends. They say that misery loves company. It was during my lowest points in life when I gained new friends that have similar situations as mine. I reached out to people, gave pieces of advice when asked, and then surrendered all my worries to the Lord.
I always tell my new friends to “trust in the process” no matter how bad it seems to be. Of course, we need to forgive the people or circumstances that led us to this situation. When we forgive, we provide closure to the incident and so we don’t feel as haunted as before. When we trust in the process and believe that good things will come out of it later, we learn to move on and look forward to what life has to offer.

Despite the pains that 2020 caused me, I still believe that there are good reasons why I shed a lot of tears this year. Let us also be kinder to one another because we don’t know what we are going through these days. May we all have a better 2021!

PS: If you liked my poem, please share this post. Let us spread positivity! 🙂

Online Schooling, Ready Ka Na Ba?

Mainit na topic ngayon ang class opening sa August 24, 2020. Ito ay sa kabila ng banta ng covid-19. Dahil dito, inihahanda na ng mga paaralan ang online class para sa mga mag-aaral. Ang tanong, ready ka na ba sa online class? Pero bago mo sagutin yan, ipaliwanag muna natin kung ano nga ba ang online class.

Sa regular class, ang mga mag-aaral ay inaasahang pumasok sa paaralan para turuan ng mga guro. Dahil sa kakulangan ng pasilidad, kahit ang mga pribadong paaralan ay napipilitang hatiin ang bilang ng mga mag-aaral kaya mayroong pumapasok ng pang-umaga at meron ding panghapon. May mga paaralang dikit-dikit ang upuan para mapagkasya ang mga bata. Bago nangyari ang covid-19 na ito, ang tanging magagawa ng magulang para hindi makahawa ang anak nilang sinisipon o inuubo ay ang huwag ng papasukin muna. Pero may mga magulang at bata na sadyang competitive at talaga namang papasok pa din kahit masama ang pakiramdam huwag lang mapag-iwanan sa lessons. Dahil sa mga limitasyong ito at dahil na din sa hindi pa napupuksa ang pandemya, dalawang bagay ang mainit na pinagdedebatehan ngayon ng mga magulang: online class ba o ipagpaliban ang pasukan hanggang hindi pa available ang vaccine.

Taliwas sa regular class, ang online class ay maaring mahati sa dalawang kategorya ayon sa aking mga nababasa at karanasan na din:

1. 100% Online Class– sa 100% online class, tuloy lang ang buhay. Maglo-log in ang mga bata sa online class website para ma-monitor pa din ang attendance. Dahil online na, kaya nang guro na pagsabay-sabayin ang klase nya; wala ng pang-umaga at wala ng panghapon. Ang graded recitation ay posibleng gawin sa Google Meet kung hindi kaya ng Zoom. Mainam ang ganitong klase ng online class sa mga batang 10 taon gulang pataas dahil hindi na sila intimidated sa teknolohiya kumpara sa mga mas maliliit na bata. Maganda ang set up ng 100% online class kung ang bata ay may kanya-kanyang laptop dahil interactive ang klase. Maganda ang set up na ito kung sapat ang luwag ng bahay ng mga bata para hindi maabala ang bawat isa. At maganda sana ito kung ang internet speed ng bata ay 5Mbps man lang. Ang tanong, ready ka na ba sa ganitong set up?

2. Home Schooling Set Uponline education pa din ito pero very minimal ang interface sa mga teacher; sabihin na nating nasa 25% lang. Sa home schooling set up, may mga guro pa din kada subject pero ang lessons ay ida-download sa online schooling website. Sa home schooling set up, hindi kinakailangan lagi ng internet. Basta may printer ka, ipi-print mo lang ang lessons sabay paturo sa magulang o kung kaya nyo, sa tutor. Ang kagandahan ng home schooling set up, flexible ang oras basta sa loob ng isang linggo, naipasa mo na ang kinakailangang lessons. Ang problema dito ay kung 5 ang anak mo na may 8 subject. Pagtyatyagaan mong aralin ang 40 subjects para sa kanila. Ang mas masakit nito para sa bata ay kung walang tyaga o walang oras ang mga magulang na turuan sila. Ready ka na ba sa home schooling set up?

Elementarya pa lang yang sinasabi ko dahil na din sa may mga anak akong nasa elementarya pa lang. Ibang kaso kapag nasa mataas na paaralan na (high school) at kolehiyo. Halimbawa, sa Home Economics (meron pa ba nun?) na subject, paano masasabi ni Ma’am at Sir na pasado ang pananahi ko o pagkakarpintero kung hindi naman nya aktwal na nakita? Paano masasabi ni Sir sa isang dentistry student na tama ang pagkakabunot nya ng ngipin?

Sa madaling salita, hindi lahat ng subjects ay pwede o kayang pag-aralan sa online lang. So, anong mga subjects ang ire-retain at ano ang hindi muna ipapakuha? Hindi ba dapat sa ngayon ay napag-uusapan na kung ano ang magiging guideline sa August 24 na pasukan? Mababawasan ba ang bayarin o baka hindi na maningil ng miscellaneous fee? Ano ang mangyayari sa mga guro sakaling hindi matuloy ang pasukan?

Talagang mabangis ang covid-19. Hindi lamang kabuhayan ang inabala kung hindi pati pangarap ng ating mga kabataan.