2017, In Transit

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My 2017 is the year of transitions.

In January, I moved in to a new office within DepEd for the last six months of the Alumni Ambassadors Program—some sort of government internship program of Teach for the Philippines. From the Quality Assurance Division of the Bureau of Learning Resources ( for nine months), I transferred to the Office of the Undersecretary for Planning and Field Operations (OUPFO).

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On April 4, I celebrated my first DepEd anniversary.

It was there where I had a deeper understanding of the complex Philippine education system—that it is governed by a gamut of policies and memoranda—which I never bothered knowing about when I was in college or even when I was already teaching, primarily because it’s almost impossible to squeeze in the time poring over those text-heavy documents, even if they were accessible through the DepEd website.

 

Coming from a teaching background, it was a breath of fresh air learning about the other side of running a public school system—the intricacies of hiring DepEd personnel, managing public-private partnerships, formulating policies, dealing with leaders, politicians, and education advocates, etc. As a teacher-turned-technical assistant,  sometimes, it was difficult taking in and out this ‘fresh air’, especially that afternoon when I had a to face a mother who needed help so her son would be allowed to march on stage even if his son’s report card is still in his previous school, the days when I had to be firm on my suggested edits for a public document, the calls I had to endure because the irate taxpayer is entitled to complain about and suggest tweaks to improve the education system, the transmittals/ letters of complaint and request I drafted and never heard about, except for a few offices who gave us updates. It is through those tough situations that I have ‘further adult-ed’—become wiser, seen things from different vantage points.

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The Wonderwomen of the OUPFO during a late-night meeting. Brilliant humans of DepEd.

Even if I had an idea on what I had signed up for, I was still taken aback when USec. Mateo, and the other executive assistants asked me to draft completed staff work (I don’t even have the faintest idea what it is), speeches for minor speaking engagements, and replies to letters from our distinguished legislators. For someone who is not so confident at technical writing—make that writing, in general—that is one big, herculean task. But because you can’t say no to your boss—the USec, the Filipino people, I did those writing assignments anyway. It prompted me to read, read, and read a lot of related materials before I could come up with a decent one-page speech to be cliniqued the next day. Short runs in PhilSports’ track oval and cups of iced Americano were my constant companions on those nights.

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Team Titans Manila welcomes non-members in their training sessions.

Those experiences affirmed my decision to stay in the Department. Although I mentioned to some friends before that I might hop from one non-government organization (NGO) until I make it to UNICEF or any international NGO, I realized, and maybe this is a very adult thing to say, that I have arrived to that stage that I finally wanted to establish a career—to flourish in my sweet spot. So sometime in April, I found myself in the National Educators’ Academy of the Philippines (NEAP)’s meeting room answering interview questions tensely, as always. (NEAP is the training arm of DepEd.) In the initial list that the Personnel Division released, there were forty of us vying for the two positions—chances were slim but my hope was anchored on the fact that this is where God wanted me to stay. A couple of days before my 29th birthday came the good news.

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Sometimes, bus rides get pretty interesting as long as you stay awake hugging your backpack.

The career moves brought in residence transfers. From April to September 2016, I had to endure the Pasig-Ortigas traffic and the Lifehomes flood, which made me decide to go back home and commute every day from San Jose del Monte, Bulacan to DepEd in Meralco Avenue in Pasig. Since work at the USec’s office doesn’t end at 4 pm, I gave space-sharing in the Metro, this time in quiet, flood-free mini-subdivision in Cubao, another chance. Three kilometers of slow-moving traffic from Shaw Boulevard to EDSA-Cubao is quite tolerable. When I transferred to NEAP, my third office in DepEd, I didn’t know that it would entail a lot of out-of-town travels, so it was not practical paying 3K+ monthly and staying only in my Cubao space on weekends/ a couple of weeks. I, for the second time, moved back to Bulacan—back to waking up before four in the morning, back to taking catnaps while in transit.

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This space in Cubao is just a block away from EDSA.

I didn’t know that the 90-180-minute daily commute is just a preview of what I would be doing as long as I am in DepEd-NEAP. Curriculum development writeshops and workshops on different learning and development (L&D) interventions usually happen outside the DepEd complex—in regional NEAP facilities, resort-hotels, and sometimes in comfy hotels (for big events, or when sponsored by the Basic Education Sector Transformation Program). Work-related travels were a far-fetched idea five years ago. This is how ‘all over the place’ I have been this year.

 

April: (San Jose de Buenavista) Antique

May: (El Salvador, CDO) Misamis Oriental

June: Biňan (Laguna)

July: Naga City

August: (Malvar) Batangas, Antipolo (Rizal)

September: (Alabang) Muntinlupa, Cebu City, Marikina City, Los Baňos (Laguna)

October: Angeles (Pampanga), Quezon City, (Bauang) La Union

November: (San Juan) La Union, Tacloban City, Tuguegarao City

December: Manila, (Balanga City) Bataan, (Gen. Trias) Cavite, (Basco) Batanes

 

It is fun until flight delays or cancellations are announced (like the one we experienced in CDO), or when we had to sit through a 12-15-hour bus ride to Tuguegarao. And the truth is, most of the time, we are inside the training venue, and the only opportunities we get to experience the place are when we wake up very early in the morning and run, or stay up late in the evening and stroll. In my case, I would run for an hour—a running tour of the downtown, and visit local coffeeshops for my coffee fix, and sketching project (which deserves a separate post).

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On an average, I spend two hours marveling at the scenery and trying my best to preserve it on paper.

In the midst of any transition in life, I rest in the fact that the anxiety and excitement of the uncertainties are just temporary—that I am always a ride or run away from home. Dr. Michael Brown perfectly verbalized why being in transit is a beautiful thing–

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