Last Wednesday I assigned something “disturbing” to my English classes.
It was a 1996 article about a UP graduate (BS Agriculture Major in Plant Pathology to be specific), who ended as a maid in Hongkong after her short stint as a young scientist (since P4000 per month would not be sufficient for her, let alone her family, so she looked for a job abroad which then pays P12000 monthly).
Silence was all there was when I finished reading.
On top of all their uneasy thoughts was the question: what would happen to me when I graduate from UP, after all the hardships I’ve been through from first year to fourth or beyond year, in the hands of the cruelest professors, in a most stressful times, under intoxicating expectations? Then several other questions pop:
Would I be able to land a well-paying job?
Do I want a well-paying job at the expense of a job I would love (which seems to be always way cheaper)?
Should my job be in the service of the ailing nation?
Which should we prioritize supporting, our family or our country?
Do I even need a college degree to pursue my dreams?
Is the government to be blamed for brain drain and the Diaspora of millions of Filipinos who can’t find a decent job here?
Should we finger-point or start challenging ourselves to prepare for life after UP?
What happened to other UP graduates?
Why did Sally choose to be a maid?
Didn’t she waste all the privileges of being a UP grad?
Are there others like her?
Believe me, the discussion ended in a positive note. I could only tell a few stories of my friends who now earn twice or thrice bigger than my salary, or those with equal or less pay than mine, in jobs they want because since the very beginning they know their worth and they know what they want. This, plus a good balance of love of country and love for family, plus a little pride. We weren’t saying that Sally doesn’t. That’s her choice.
Well some of my friends earn big time in call centers and multi-national companies, others enjoy the relatively low pay of broadcasting and journalism stints, some teach in UP, some in high schools, some started as bum and ended as freelancers, some went to the lucrative business process outsourcing, some pursued further studies here and abroad, some were not able to finish college and some put up their own business, some became flight attendants, some are now mothers and fathers, some are still trapped in their parents’ house, some are travelers and globetrotters, some are bloggers.
But many are still in the service of the nation: those who stayed in the University, those who went to the Congress (and other public office) for a good cause, those who are in UP Pahinungod, those who work for non-profit non-governmental organizations, those who write ceaselessly and expose social ills.
So if students would choose to be employed or to put up a business which to them is not degrading or corrupt or illegal, then they call the shots.
The students got my point.