June 24, 2024

‘AMONG US FILIPINOS, it is “whom you know and not what you know” that usually matters’. I first heard this when I was yet in High School.
WE JUST FINISHED eating Lunch at my granduncle’s house (he and his wife- grandaunt Filomena were so kind to welcome me stay in their house when I was 2nd to 3rd year HS. They’re now in Heaven, God rest their souls).
THE THREE MEN conversing were relatives. One of them just got the job he applied for – a policeman. In those times, it was a much sought-after job or position for men – young or old.
WHILE THEY WERE conversing, the newly-hired one said: “I guess I’m truly lucky. Of the 27 applicants we were, only seven of us were taken: two World War II veterans, two degree-holders.. my luck.. I’m only 2nd-year in college by attainment..
‘THAT MAKES ONLY five; who are the other two? They must be high passers of the Qualifying Exams given you.. or..’ commented the other man.
“MAYBE.. BUY MAYBE not. They’re no veterans, nor had they military trainings previous. In fact, they’re High School.. well, that’s what the other applicants are saying; maybe..”
‘LET ME GUESS’, said the third man ‘Maybe, they got strong recommendations from higher-ups? You know – the Councilors, the Vice-Mayor or higher-higher (ehkakajang pay)?’
THE ‘LUCKY’ MAN just held himself silent. Then, the other (or 2nd) man volunteered: ‘our kindred who experienced working outside town.. some of them claim, in our midst-and-milieu as Filipinos, it is whom you know and not what you know!
“OR RATHER.. RARELY what you know”.. I’m saying in-context!’ L-a-u-g-h-s from the trio.


AS A YOUNG man, I wanted to help my late mother support my way to College. She had a little Sari-Sari store, but we were three boys she had to support: Kuya Yambi, myself, and youngest Rubeni. Our father passed away when Rubeni was only six months old, and although Yambi was helping, he was still underaged to land a regular job. Besides, he was only 4th-year High School when he stopped Schooling.
IN BAGUIO, I often observed my age-mates – or younger boys, working in Gasoline Stations. Later, with my imaginations mounting, I went to apply as a Gasoline Boy – in all the Stations that time. I was not taken – for varied reasons: ‘No Vacancy’, ‘two just came in’, ‘Come back later’, et cetera.
COME BACK LATER I did.. to all of them again; but no luck. But
AS I LEFT the last ‘Second Round’ Station, I didn’t make a hundred meters when the Manager had me called to his table. He nodded at me and motioned me to take my Seat. He asked my name; then, thought awhile somewhat and said:
“YOU CAME HERE to apply months ago. I can’t accept you.. now we’re full here. But in case, after three months and you’ll still be interested; just come and see me. I’ll help you.
“IVE SEEN your family name in that Veteran’s Park (near his Gasoline Station); even your Middle Name is written there; you must be from here.
‘YES, MY FATHER’S brother; the other named is my mother’s brother, I respectfully replied.
HE SMILED AND we talked a bit more. When we ended conversing, he sort-of ‘reminded’ me:
“SOMETIMES IT HELPS to introduce yourself and your origin adequately to your would-be employer, especially if given the chance. They say: ‘It is whom you know that may matter.. do you believe in that?’
I SAID: ‘YES, sir!’ and thanked him well. I never became his Gasoline Boy months after or so but in later years, but I can’t forget his kind advice which kept me vigilant and ‘seasoned’ in the later years of my life and career


WHEN I WAS working with the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC: 1991-93) in Morong, Bataan, there was a time they required us to secure for ourselves each: an NBI certificate or clearance.
MOST OF US were worried: how or when could we produce said certificate? We knew nobody at the NBI. In my particular case, I did not know Manila; I was just always depending on schedules of the ICMC buses, as well as sometimes, on the kindness and assistance of co-workers or fellows.
ONE DAY, HOWEVER, another employee learned of my predicament. He came to my cottage and told me: “I’ll help you. If you could ask for a Leave – 2 to 3 days, next week, my Leave is for the whole ‘next week.” [I said: ‘Yes, thank you’].
WE WENT TO the NBI that week next. He just said to those who asked us: he was going to visit his daughter (then) working at the NBI. Minutes after he talked with his daughter and two or three more individuals, we were filling up some forms, they took a picture of me, etc., and soon we were ready to leave the building.
I CAN’T REMEMBER exactly now, but after some days, we went.. back again to Manila, to get my NBI clearance; just in-time for the deadline submission at ICMC!
REFLECTING NOW: IT was whom I knew (my co-worker) – but through whom he knew (his daughter), that I was able to secure said clearance, on-time!
IT COULD HAVE been different if I just depended solely on what I knew, nl. that I could read signs and instructions; or that I could speak English – or Tagalog.