Saturday, October 28, 2006

Official homecoming

What was supposed to be an "unofficial" business meeting yesterday afternoon turned out to be a memorable one. I had set a meeting with my former officemate, Grace, to discuss together with my ex-boss, Sir Roel, some developments with a project which I used to work for. This project was, in fact, my first honest-to-goodness job after graduating from college. I asked permission from my division chief to allow me to leave earlier than I'm supposed to in order to make it to a coffee shop in Tomas Morato where we'll be meeting.

I knew I arrived early although we didn't agree on meeting at an exact time, and good thing I was accompanied by a geisha, err, at least the memoirs of one distilled in a paperback. I haven't gone past the foreword of the book yet when they arrived arrived.

My previous job was with a project of an NGO advocating sustainable agriculture in order to achieve the Millenium Development Goals on food security and reducing the incidence of poverty by 2015. I only lasted all of three months in that work, after getting in accepted in what I thought was my ideal job, as a technocrat with the planning body of the government (but that's another story). After quitting from my NGO job, I still got in touch with Grace from time to time through writing and submitting articles for the e-newsletter of the project.

The kumustahan touched into the goings on in our professional lives, where I learned much later that Sir Roel is already the dean of a college of agriculture in a university in down south. Afterwhich we went down to business and brainstormed on the next steps of the project in the near future. Another writer for the newsletter, Allan, arrived later and joined us in our discussion. We spent almost two hours huddled in the round table, and I could say it was a fruitful meeting. Having been exposed to project planning and evaluation and to some extent to the agriculture sector, I was able to share my thoughts on the conceptualization of a project which isn't really an easy task to do when you think of solving the woes of the world.

Sir Roel, Allan, and I decided to drop by Grace's office a couple of blocks away to tie some things up. On my way to use the toilet, I was teleported back to 2004 as I got a glimpse of a makeshift cubicle strewn with some papers on the desk, and got a whiff of brewing coffee, inevitably reminding me of my NGO stint then. For your education, most NGOs in the Philippines make do renting a big house which serves as their office, a far cry from the confines of the corporate cubicle, which is somehow a good thing. I was impressed with this particular office though, because it's computer network is already "wirelessly interconnected" via a router. I overheard Sir Roel talking to a former colleague on the phone, and said that he'll be going there later. I thought, why not go with him to see some old faces I haven't seen in almost two years?

Allan decided to go back to Olongapo, and so Sir Roel and I went off to the other side of Edsa, and was in UP Village after Php67.50 worth of taxi fare. The office has relocated to another house though still in the same village, which I remembered we once visited during our house-hunting sessions then. (The "we" includes everyone from the Executive Director to the Administrative Assistant, and all ten or so of us would cram in the "company vehicle."). Even if I didn't establish that much of a relationship with my former colleagues, the reunion with the those present in the office was one of those times that makes one genuinely blurt out "nice seeing you again!" This must be coming from present "official issues" hounding our staff right now, which have become a cause for detachment and some resignation-- literally and figuratively.

We made our rounds of personal and professional updates. One who just gave birth a few days before I left them, is now pregnant again with her second baby, while another is resigning to do volunteer work and finish her graduate thesis, and later pursue her dream of studying in the United Kingdom. They have a couple of new recruits who have been with other NGOs as well. They teased me to treat them for dinner which I obliged though we still ended up going Dutch. We had home-delivered chicken and veggies from a restaurant, while we just steamed our own rice like how we have always used to do it during our lunch breaks together. We wrapped up some time past eight in the evening.

The meeting and my unplanned side trip to my previous office was a satisfying way to cap off the week. It may not be your typical Friday night out of drinking and partying, yet seeing familiar faces and reestablishing old ties with those in the development work, provided some temporary foothold and leverage from that slow yet growing pull of confusion and disillusionment.

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