Furloughed? Displaced due to COVID-19? Let’s find you a new work today!

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Saying that we are in a really crazy time right now is an understatement these days. Some people are lucky, and that includes myself, because they get to keep their jobs amidst the pandemic. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for most people around the world right now.

I had two things in mind when I was thinking things through:

  1. What if it’s me who is looking for job? To whom should I reach out to if my role becomes redundant because of business decisions? What would I do? Where do I begin?
  2. Within my network, I can see that at least two people are looking for a new work after getting displaced. As a recruiter and a champion of Talent Attraction and Marketing, what’s stopping me from connecting them to a work that I know?

Then, this mission finally happened.

I want to help.

I have the tools. I can build the audience. I can write. In a millennial term, I need to find out “What’s not clicking, Brenda?”

Now that I have renewed faith in my passion (and a renewed subscription of my domain lol), expect that over the next weeks or so (every fortnightly, if not weekly) I will be sharing my expertise and some tips on how to land and ace your interview, improve your resume, or simply share some of my newly discovered work-at-home hacks and essentials to get things going for your remote work.

Every blog that I will publish will also feature leads (mostly work-at-home jobs) to help anyone who is looking for new work (whether because of job change, displacement… that’s on you). Leads will not be country or location-specific because I will share them as I see fit. So that means I could be sharing an opening in the Philippines today and an opening in the US next week.

Job market is stalling? Not for my company!

You know, it’s really scary when we hear people talk about how the job market recovery is stalling and when we see more people claim unemployment benefits these days not just in the United States but as well as globally. On the contrary, the company that I work for is nowhere near slowing down.

Did you know that even before the pandemic hit TTEC has already been employing thousands of work-at-home phone agents across the globe? Yes, unlike typical outsourcing companies out there, our goal is to make customer service-related work available for people globally. Working from home is not easy. However, if you have some of our minimum requirements we can help and set you up for success – internal career mobility, full-time benefits, outstanding work culture, transparent leadership… you name it, we have it!

Oh, if you happen to be in the United States (minus California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, and New York – so sorry!) you may want to check out this Work From Home Customer Service Representative work that we have. I once asked why we couldn’t hire to those states right now and my boss’s answer was simple: it’s because of state legislations that they have in place right now. Soon, when things might be different, we will be able to hire from those states, too! Over the next four weeks, we are hiring 3500 representatives to join us and if you wish to be one of them, let me know!

From the Philippines: if you’re looking for a career under Human Resources and Talent Acquisition, check out this Global Talent Acquisition Co-Ordinator post that we have for you. Potentially, we need someone who is agile and flexible schedule-wise. If you’re someone who loves collaborating and discovering news ways to effectively support your market and region this role could be for you.

Now, if you’re unsure about what to pursue but is keen to hear more from TTEC, you can join the Talent Community to hear the first dibs from us. We send some cool stuff, watch out!

Let’s help each other. If you know someone who is looking for work right now, connect them with me and we can help them find a job, which means it’s not only limited to TTEC. My email is always open to connect with you if you have questions or opportunities to share.

Ikigai, success and why delaying something is okay

The year was 2013. It was Politics of Education class (one of my electives) with Sir Louie who became one of the closest professors I’ve ever had. We were discussing the works of Paulo Freire (The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation, 1985) when we touched on the concept of Ikigai.

Image taken from forbes.com.

This image represents the best way to describe what Ikigai means. It is a Japanese concept that means a ‘reasons for being’. It’s described as the value of being alive which makes one’s life worthwhile; it’s about finding satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life. When we do what we love, we pursue what we’re good at, we get paid for doing it, and when we do something that impacts the world around us, that’s what our Ikigai means.

According to Freire, the oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption. Linking it to our Ikigai discussion, this means that people (in our context, the students) can make and remake themselves when they learn. When they find their reason for existence, not only they learn out of their struggle but they unlock the knowledge and realise the importance of finding their purpose and taking responsibility for themselves as being because everyone can know that they know and knowing that they don’t.

I used to think that my reason for existence was simple – be rich, live life to the fullest… all I wanted was to live in a nice house without the fear of not being able to provide for myself. I know most of us want to do this but I really wanted travel and experience adventures from time to time. When I started working and when this pandemic took place, what used to be important to me means nothing now.

I realised that growing my savings and earning money is okay but my personal time is more important now. I know it’s not just me when I say that there are days when I couldn’t get out of work on time because of overflowing tasks. However, on most days when I could log off work as soon as the clock hits 6, I find time to do things that are not work-related which includes a lot of sleep since I work night shifts.

Why is this important to me? I discovered that I feel successful when I make time for family gatherings and I never miss one. I am happy and at peace when I find time to play gaming consoles to end a long day at work. I bet if everything was still in the old normal I wouldn’t be able to find time to do these things. I was also determined to finish my goal of reading at least 50 books this year. The sad part I am nowhere near half of my goal.

These days, when things have gone bonkers because of the pandemic, I felt that it’s okay when all I ever thought about was my safety and of those people around me. Delaying something and adapting to the changing times is more important and that does not mean I failed (I still read books every now and then).

I still do not know what my Ikigai is but it now makes sense to me.

  • Things happen in my own timeline and pace and if I keep comparing my story to others, it will only bring more harm than good;
  • What once meant the world to me may mean nothing in future;
  • Changing priorities is okay;

When you found your reason for existence please hold on to it, defend it, and ensure that it gives a positive impact to the community that you belong to. If you haven’t found yours that’s okay. Things will fall into its rightful places to those who know how to wait.

A message to my readers (and soon-to-be-ones)

I lost track of time. I know it’s not only me when I say couldn’t recognise what day it was already. I forgot about my passion projects, thinking that the ‘lock downs’ were only going to last for a couple of weeks, if not three months max. When traveling and seeing my friends were my only refuge and escape away from my cloudy thoughts, I couldn’t do it because of the situation these days.

It’s been more than six months since strict quarantine measures have been in place. The situation has barely improved in my country and it feels like it’s getting worse day after day. I’m quite disappointed and I feel sorry for not being able to write the past months. I wanted to focus on how I can stay alive, and here I am!

Quarantine Series: Thoughts on how to connect to friends who are experiencing depression

Reminding you how beautiful the moon looks like.

I know everyone has plans once we’re done with this quarantine. Seeing some of my acquaintances create their own to-do (and to-go-to) lists is uplifting. It gives me an optimistic feeling about what lies ahead of us. I took inspiration from that gesture and so a few weeks ago, I wrote about my plans and what I have in mind once this situation is over and briefly talked about what my current situation is at home. We have every right to stay forward-looking and to keep a positive mindset about our future as a community. But it seemed like I was trying to forget about the ‘now’.

For weeks, despite having consciousness about what’s going on around us, I remained silent. My level of apathy was too much that I didn’t want to take part in any unnecessary debate, even if it concerns the right of anyone out there. My mind kept telling me to avoid everything that does not spark joy (borrowing this line from Marie Kondo!) and I have un-followed every news outlet on social media. I didn’t want this to be my norm. I did not obtain a degree in Development Studies to remain apathetic.

I did lots of introspection. I wrote everything down in my journal. I just couldn’t find the right words to share what’s on my mind. I was lost for words to explain things. However, despite constant denial in my head, I recognized there’s a level of sadness that I feel and these depressive episodes were brought about the prolonged limited human interaction over the last 2 months.

The truth is I find it awkward to talk about my feelings, most especially if I were to tell it to those people that are close to me. My fear is not being able to clearly express myself and end up getting judged. It’s not because I don’t want to open but it’s more of the lack of ability to properly communicate things that hinders me to strike a conversation with anyone. I also know that not a lot of people are trained to easily connect when someone’s experiencing depression. That’s why instead of starting an odd conversation with anyone, I end up writing things down, hence the reason I always resort to publishing blog entries every now and then.

Some people might ask “Why you got to be so depressed?”

Well, I don’t know either.

When you have already accepted sadness as your default feeling, you end up not doing anything about your episodes. For others, they think that’s weird because we should be happy most of the time but if you would understand where somebody is coming from, it’s actually not a bad thing to recognise that it’s okay to be sad most of the time.

To help us manage and get through the global pandemic situation, my company has put together a series of webinars we can all join in. Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of blog entries to share more about my learning and Aha! moments.

Here are some of the amazing things I learned when dealing with depression amidst isolation due to quarantine:

Let them be heard, never forget to ask

If you’re experiencing depressive episodes and would like to let out some of your thoughts, please consider what the receiving end would feel. Consciously ask about their bandwidth to listen before you share anything. In that way, you find a common ground and adjust to each other’s level of emotions.

On the other hand, if your friend, who’s experiencing depression, would like to share what’s on their mind, and if your hands aren’t too tied up, please make time to listen. The simple yet powerful act of listening, even without offering any advice, helps reduce what we feel. By giving affirmation that you are listening to what they are saying makes them feel valued.

The greatest lesson I picked up during the webinars I’ve attended was breaking the bad habit of listening to respond. Instead of listening simply to respond or retaliate back, we have to listen to understand. Communication is a two-way street and it’s not enough that we listen to what they’re saying. We have to understand what they’re telling us and remain engaged.

We don’t want to shame ourselves when someone asks questions about what they’re saying and we wouldn’t be able to respond back because our mind is somewhere else, do we?

We cannot “just get over it” and that’s okay

It’s easier said than done. If we’re going to have it our way, we could’ve eliminated depression a long time ago. If ice cream could cure this depression away, I would’ve consumed more than what my body could hold but it doesn’t work that way.

Remember that we do not need any saving. It’s not your duty and it will never be anybody’s responsibility to fix anyone. Refrain from pressuring someone to feel normal. When someone’s having their episodes, we have to eliminate the feeling of disappointment simply because they cannot be normal.

Moreover, un-learning the idea that being sad and being OK cannot co-exist is difficult but it must be done. We were taught that when we experience sadness there must be something wrong about us. In reality, it’s healthy and natural to accept that it happens even to the best of us.

The best move you can do is to remind yourself, whether you experience depression or you’re helping out someone, that it will not last forever.

Connect wisely

The easiest way you can earn somebody’s trust is by establishing clear boundaries about how much you can help someone. When you give an idea about what you’re planning to do and when you outright ask for their consent in advance, you are empowering them by building confidence with you and giving them a sense of control so they wouldn’t overreact.

For example, instead of vaguely saying “you can reach out to me anytime,” you can say that they can reach out to you anytime through call or text but it might take a while for you to respond back. Instead of assuming that it’s okay to instantly call someone to check on them, why not message them ahead of time and remain sharp about your plans: “Hey, I want to check in with you. Do you think to call you every day is okay? If not, we can text every day and get on the phone sometime later in the week?”

Never take things personally

Here’s the thing: you can offer your advice as long as it’s solicited. Avoid the habit of taking the spotlight away when somebody is sharing something because you want to inject your idea. We have to recognise that there is no definite way of dealing with depression. What has worked for someone else may not be applicable to another person.

Please do not get discouraged to help when someone turns down your advice.

This home quarantine is not easy and I’m celebrating each day I’m able to pull myself out of my bed. During our work last week, my colleagues and I had an information-sharing session on how we’re coping up with this. After learning about everybody’s unique way of coping up, I felt insecure because I had nothing extraordinary to share. I said that acceptance was my coping mechanism – I go on with my day, do my very best at work, and accept that things won’t get any better soon. I thought they were expecting something out of the ordinary but really, there’s nothing special with the way I handle this. They were encouraging me to start a new hobby. They even shared some amazing movie titles and series to watch. Some of them introduced some new books to read. But I told them I’m fine and I’m glad they respect my take on this.

My learnings aren’t a one-stop-shop and should not be taken as the only. I’m sure many of you have more amazing things to share about this topic. These points are based on my principle of inclusion: each one of us has a voice and it’s meant to be heard; that all of us are connected in one way or another and we should never leave anyone.

When we talk to someone experiencing depression, we have to speak to that person like they were OK. Talk to them as if your life depended on them. Converse with them without hesitation. Keep in mind that their life is as vibrant, important, and amazing as yours. If you do that, you might just empower someone without you even realizing you did that.

I Was Catfished And Here’s My Story

Warning: the post is explicit and may cause anxiety attacks

Catfishing, to those of you who are not familiar with it, happens when someone creates an online identity (or identities, to some extent) to trick someone into an emotional relationship.

Unlike others who fell in love with someone using a fake online identity, my story was different. I was not tricked. I was not scammed. I did not meet the culprit and thankfully, nothing serious happened to me but I was greatly traumatized by this incident in 2018.

This entry wouldn’t have materialized without the issue of Jzan Tero with Sam Morales on Twitter. Whilst reading the entire thread, I couldn’t help but recall how distressing my experience was. The trauma was too much to handle that I haven’t had the chance to tell this one to my close friends. But now that I have mustered enough courage to do it, I’m sharing my story with the world.

2018 wasn’t exactly the best year for me. At that time, my grandfather just died due to a heart complication, I’ve had issues with my health, and work-related tasks were getting out of hand because of multiple ongoing projects.

I used gay dating/messaging apps sparingly during those times because admittedly, I simply don’t have the luxury of time to do it. But one day, this person (see photo below) messaged one of my colleagues at work through the Grindr app.

My colleague reached out to me on our internal messaging platform and said that my boyfriend is waiting for me downstairs, at the building lobby. I felt weird about it because I told him that I do not have a boyfriend and have been single since late of 2017. The person kept insisting to my colleague that he’s waiting downstairs to meet me. I had to open my Grindr app and see for myself. I really don’t have any idea what’s going on – am I being pranked by another friend of mine? If yes, then this prank is definitely not a nice prank at all.

As soon as I opened the Grindr app, I got a message from this “FUNtastic” person, and here’s a translation of what happened (for my non-Filipino readers):

  • FUNtastic (F): Hi bb
  • Me (M): ?
  • F: Miss u bb. I waited for you last night. I was talking to your office mate
  • M: Huh?
  • F: Yes
  • M: Who are you? I neither know you nor I remember you
  • F: Don’t you love me anymore? After everything, you became like that. You even denied me to your friend.
  • M: I don’t really know you, okay? I will report you to the building admin if you don’t stop. I don’t even have a partner.

The person didn’t stop there and went on by revealing some details about me (fyi, this information is available on my LinkedIn and Facebook before I turned my account private):

  • F: Why will you report me? Don’t you want to admit that I became your partner?
  • M: When did we become a couple, assuming that we did? And what is my full name and what are my details that you know?
  • F: Do you want me to tell it one by one?
  • M: Go. I dare you.
  • F: Your course was Development Studies at De La Salle (University). You already worked for many BPO companies. Your dad is a seaman (seafarer). You went to St. Mary’s for high school. You became an exchange student at Chulalongkorn (University). Your brother just graduated from ICS (Immaculate Conception Seminary).
  • M: Of course, you’d easily know those things through my social media account. Again, when did you become my partner? I don’t remember meeting you ever at all.
  • F: You don’t trust me at all, do you? Do you have a monthly period now?
  • M: Again, when did you become my partner? I know I had one last time and I’m sure that was not you.
  • F: After you tasted me? Of course, you only had one partner last time because you didn’t have two. Haha. I will go there to pick you up.
  • M: Again, when you become my partner? I need (the) exact dates. Also, if you were my partner, how come you don’t have my number? All of my partners have my mobile numbers.

I thought he’d finally stop because he didn’t reply for a couple of minutes. I have already sent a report to the building admin and to the security team about the incident before going home. That night, since I was working following the U.K. time, I usually get out of work around 12AM, I actually couldn’t get home by myself. I was scared that someone might just show up and harass me. I had to call my family for help and asked them to fetch from the office.

The next day, this freak messaged me again and started harassing me more. He said he’ll send a photo of me having sex with him to my mum. I didn’t flinch and dared him to do it because I’m confident that I don’t ever let anyone take a photo of me whilst having sex:

  • F: That’s why it will go loose (he’s talking about why my ass would be loose by now)
  • M: Oh, why don’t you answer my questions? Ah, right! It’s because it’s not true. Haha. You’re busted, sir. Also, I’m not a bottom. Son of a bitch.
  • F: You’re a son of a bitch, too! Haha. Let’s have sex again?
  • M: You’re trying to trick me, you son of a bitch? I have your picture with me. My colleague sent it to me. Don’t you ever come near me because I have already reported you to the authorities! And for once, I don’t do casual sex with just anybody. Look for others whom you can fool.
  • F: They cannot stop me. I will go there. No? You’ve already tasted me, haven’t you?
  • M: If we got together, send a photo that we are together. Son of a bitch! Don’t you ever fool me, you’re just wasting time.
  • F: I’ll send a photo whilst you’re sucking my dick? You keep cursing – that’s bad. Shall I send it? The one where you ate my cum?
  • M: Send it. Go. But you don’t have a decent picture of us being together. Too bad! You’re busted, sir. I blew up your cover and discovered you’re fake.
  • F: Shall I send it to Tita Sally (my mum)?
  • M: Go, send it. I can even go with you!
  • F: You’re crazy! Why are you mad? I already went to your office to pick you up last night?
  • M: Are you nuts? Why would you even pick me up, I don’t even know you in the first place? Who are you? I don’t even know your name. You can’t even say when exactly we got together, and yet you keep saying you are my boyfriend? Are you crazy?
  • F: Yes – crazy for you! Why do you keep cursing? Your mouth needs some cleaning! I’m already here (saying that he’s at the office lobby once again)

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The following day, he still messaged me through the app – “Hi bb (gesturing something about fucking in the ass)”, “Afternoon bb”, “Bb miss your asshole”, “Blow me bb, I’ll pick you up…” but I didn’t engage with the person anymore after filing a police report.

Thankfully, my work setup allowed us to be agile and flexible and so my manager encouraged me to start working from home after the first two incidents. Honestly, I wanted to “block” the account from messaging me but the police officer advised me to keep the account open and active so there will be enough evidence if anything happens to me. After a few days, the account just died and the person didn’t bother me. I’m relieved that the incident didn’t continue for days (or weeks), or else I don’t know where I’d find myself anymore.

My family thought it’s one of my ex-boyfriends in the past but I actually don’t have any bad blood against them and we’re in good terms; civil, at the very least. I don’t know who in their right minds would dare do this but I have an idea about who it could be but I’m not dropping names without enough evidence on my hands. I’m also sure that the photo they used for this wasn’t theirs (see photo below) and I feel bad about whoever owns this picture.

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This tremendously affected how I was performing at work. I didn’t want to touch my phone. I didn’t want to interact with anyone for days. You know, I never thought I’d report back to the office anymore because of the fear that somebody might just show up and do something nasty to me.

On a personal side of things, it also affected how I connect with people. My dating life got skewed because I had trust issues with everyone. For a couple of months, I didn’t want to meet anyone from the online world. I had to deactivate my social networks for weeks. My friends didn’t know what was going on because I didn’t want to come forward and tell them – I was too afraid, in shock – and I felt sorry about it.

This could happen to anyone out there, regardless of their orientation, background, affiliations… and it can cause a lot of distress to anyone. For those of you who easily overcame a similar situation, good for you! But to those who have to go through and are going through a difficult time processing things, please know that we’re here to help you and we understand where you are coming from.

With that, let me end it here by mentioning some of my key takeaways:

  • Whilst it’s okay to engage with people you meet online, you have to make sure that you’re talking to a real person. About how you’d find out about that, I’m not so sure, but always give a second (and third, and fourth…) thought if somebody looks and feels too good to be true.
  • When interacting with someone, never ever over share about you or about your family, especially when you just started talking to each other. This can be very difficult to control because you’re torn between opening up to this person you want to engage with and keeping yourself some privacy on the side. You have your judgment – you have to own it and use it wisely.
  • I urge you to check what’s posted and written on your social media accounts. Ensure that you’re not sharing too much important information publicly, such as your location, birthday. Trust me, it’s not going to be worth it.
  • Always have your emergency contacts ready. May it be your family, friends, significant other… you have to make sure you have easy access to their contact information if anything bad happens to you.

(2020 v.2) What I have in mind once this is over!

To brighter days ahead! – here’s a photo of what the sunrise looked like last Saturday morning, 18 April 2020 at 06:03 AM (GMT+8)

 

Oh, girl!

I don’t usually complain about staying indoors because I’ve always been built for it. However, cabin fever is really creeping in with the limited human interaction I’ve got. We simply don’t have any choice this time. We cannot go out as we wish to and we have to stay inside our houses to avoid contracting COVID-19. It’s the best that we could do to follow the government’s orders and to remain healthy during these trying times.

Our prayers and thoughts go for all of our front liners – healthcare professionals, law enforcers, people working at the groceries and food outlets, the maintenance folks that keep our surroundings clean and orderly… you’re our heroes! Thanks for everything that you do and now, more than ever, we will all get through this!

With that, I would like to encourage everyone who has some more resources to spare to continuously give and help amidst the pandemic. Your donations, regardless of how big or small it may be, will create an impact. Whether you donate for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) of our front liners or spare some cash and in-kind goods to feed our community, it can go a long way.

But what comes next after this?

I don’t know, really, but hey! I don’t want to get stuck thinking about what I cannot do. I want to focus on what I will do. This entry was inspired by Victoria’s post (she’s an awesome writer, please follow her!) and now that I have some time in my hands, here’s what’s on my list:

Adapting a new work set up

I don’t see any problem with my work set up now. I’m extremely thankful that I work for a company that allows us to be agile; that we’re not seen as a mere seat-warmers. And so, once the situation is finally over, I’m thinking about the potential of limiting the days I’ll be reporting to the office and simply work from home. I also hope that work-from-home folks now and their companies realise this and the potential to minimise, if not solve, the Metro Manila traffic.

Travel, travel, and travel!

I have not traveled this year. My cousins and I were supposed to head out-of-town for our beach outing but it went down the drain because of the quarantine and lockdown situation in the Luzon island. Here’s what I have on my list:

  • Assuming that the quarantine won’t get extended, a visit to Baguio with my partner this May for his birthday;
  • Assuming the COVID-19 situation gets better, I want to celebrate my birthday out-of-town this June;
  • Rescheduled beach trip from April to August;
  • Assuming the COVID-19 situation gets better, I will head to Japan for a week this September

The rest of the days in between, I’ll make sure to dedicate some time for my long, out-of-town drives. I honestly miss driving and I can’t remember the last time I used my car!

Have some (amazing) food

Whilst I’m lucky that everything we need is right within our reach, I still crave for some good food outside. I know, this will sound whiny, but dining in a restaurant (or even getting some take-away food) has been part of my routine and I cannot even do that not simply because we’re not allowed to leave the village anymore. I’m craving for some good Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese food… you know, anything Asian. But my first order of business is to get either a McDonald’s or Burger King fix!

Continue my passion projects

For a long time, I’ve said a lot of excuses to start my passion projects. This time, since I was able to start with some of it, I’ll make sure to continue doing it even when things lighten up. It doesn’t help at all when you have to worry about deliverables for work, about the global pandemic situation that’s getting worse day after day, and the incompetency of our government. Now that I’m getting the rhythm, aside from using more of my camera, I will slowly but surely start reading books again and make sure to hit my target number of books to read for this year. Moreover, I’m revisiting all of my notes from my language classes and will hit the ground running once I have sorted out my schedule, too.

Meet people and tell them how much I missed them

Aside from dedicating more time for myself, I want to make sure I meet some important people in my life. I realised that whilst messaging them and having a video chat with them is important these days, it cannot replace the warmth you feel when you see them in person. Even if I rarely say what I have in mind, I will like to take time to meet each one of them, thank them for holding on and keeping it together.

I miss my dad so much. He couldn’t fly back here in the Philippines because of the lockdown. He’s still working abroad but was supposed to be with us this April.

I miss seeing my cousins, aunties, uncles and my grandma, and by the next time we meet, I’ll make sure to let them know how much I missed them and that they’ve always been on my mind.

I would like to meet my friends once again and say how much I missed them. As a huge fan of hugging, I would like to hug them but that’s not what social (and physical) distancing meant – see the change in the mindset of people? It has started!

What other interesting things do you have in mind that you’ll do after this quarantine? I’m sure most of you have already planned how they’ll spend their time once this is finally over. To everyone who needs help and is fighting to survive, please know that you can reach out to us and to anyone who can offer help. We’re here for you and we’re all in this together! xx

TRAVEL: Around Taiwan (Taipei/New Taipei City) in B&W (part 1)

Traveling with my parentals is a double-edged sword. You’d love them because they’re not a killjoy and they wouldn’t say no for any adventure. On the other hand, you’d hate them because they do not like traveling if everything isn’t arranged/booked ahead of time.

A little backstory: my parents had a traumatic experience when we first went out of the country. We visited Malaysia and we didn’t have any itinerary with us; totally cool for us kids but a hassle for these adults. We were there for more than a week and we didn’t know what to do. As soon as we got home, my mum and dad said that we won’t travel anymore without booking with a travel agency to arrange everything for us.

The last time we all traveled together was in 2018. We visited Taiwan, per my mum’s request. As you’d expect, everything has been arranged by a travel agency. Despite a delightful experience, I still didn’t like it when the tour had to cut short because we’re following a strict itinerary and schedule.

Fact: I hate traveling when I’m pressed with time.

We were in Taiwan for about 5 days. We went around Taiwan, as far as Taichung, but for this post, I’m going to feature some snippets during our time in Taipei and New Taipei City.

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I love the ceiling of the Taipei International Airport.

A little aerial glimpse of Taipei at night time.

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Around Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial.

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Inside Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial.

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Witnessed the changing of guards at the Martyrs’ Shrine.

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Taipei has lots of gaming/arcade centers and this was one of them. I saw this cute couple whispering something to each other and took a photo of them.

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A nice graffiti art somewhere near Ximenting.

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Ximenting at night.

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Trying to find my luck for a local sim in Zhongshan District.

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Right outside of our hotel (Hotel B-1) in Zhongshan District).

Taipei 101
A view of the infamous Taipei 101 from below.

Beef Noodles
Local Taiwan Beef Noodles at Chef Hung Taiwan Beef Noodles at Ruihu Street, Taipei.

For some weird reason, I didn’t want to use my camera (Nikon D3200) to take photos and videos. Instead, I opted to use my old Samsung Galaxy S8 and tried shooting everything on B&W.

What I love about Taipei and New Taipei City during our visit was the cleanliness. I love how refreshing it is to see how things are highly organised and how the air isn’t as humid as it is in Manila.

If you fear that the language barrier will stop you from exploring (most people don’t speak English and would only be comfortable conversing in Chinese/Mandarin), you shouldn’t get worried. In fact, you can either Google your way to your destination or simply hail Uber if you feel a little extra (yes, they have Uber in Taiwan – how I miss Uber in the Philippines!)

I highly suggest getting their local cuisine. Taiwan is really known for its rich selection of food. I recommend going to Chef Hung Taiwan Beef Noodles shop and enjoy their Taiwan Beef Noodles + unlimited noodles and soup!

More photos (and stories about my parents) on my next blog – until then!

(2020 v.1) Of new beginnings, music recommendation, and what’s going on

New beginnings

A sunny view from above.
A sunny view from above.

Summer is here.
Summer is here.

It’s exactly 30 days since I last physically reported for work. Everything has been virtual since 6 March 2020 and I tell you, it’s not always good times.

Despite saving a lot of gas money and time, I kind of miss my night drives going to the office. My drive wouldn’t be complete without my nice music playlist and a cup of coffee on the side. But, really, the main reason why I bring my car to work is because of the terrible commuting experience in Metro Manila. Ever since I started driving going to work and taking advantage of the free parking, my life has never been so easy. Since the pandemic began and the enhanced community quarantine took place, I haven’t been able to use my automobile. I’m not sure anymore if I still know how to drive (LOL!)

I haven’t mentioned I started with new work before 2020 began, have I?

It wasn’t the expectation I had in mind but I’m thankful I found a new home where my talents are not only valued but also taken to the next level. It was tough but here’s good learning that struck me: some things do not go as planned and that does not mean I failed.

One of the many things that I appreciate right now is how agile our work setup is. We are not seat-warmers. In fact, even before the pandemic, I’ve been taking advantage of this work-from-home set up a lot to look after my well-being more and to spend time doing my passion projects. What’s just quite odd is that I have to constantly meet with my colleagues almost every day to catch up on some things.

New passion project

Sums up my feelings.
Sums up my feelings.
Catching sunrise.
Catching the sunrise at the roof deck.
Catching sunrise.
Catching the sunrise at the roof deck.
Some weird statues over good food.
Some weird statues over good food. Somewhere in Angeles City, Pampanga.
Hi, it's me!
Hi, it’s me!

I have planned to read more books this year. Since I was able to finish more than 30 books last year, I want to finish more this 2020. However, with what’s going on lately, I can’t seem to find the rhythm to start reading something. My mind just couldn’t stay focused. I can’t help but worry about everyone who’s very much affected by this COVID-19 situation, most especially my grandmothers.

To keep my sanity intact and make sure I add fuel to my passion this year, I will be posting more of my random outtakes. I am nowhere near being a professional photographer but since I couldn’t find the exact words to explain most of my thoughts and ideas these days, I want to channel it through another medium. There will be moments when I might have to write things but expect that the future posts will most likely feature my photos.

New music recommendation

My cousins and I were supposed to head out of town by late April. It was supposed to be our annual getaway, sans our parents and other family members. Everything has already been booked and we’re extremely excited to finally hit the beach – then COVID-19 happened and so we had to reschedule this sometime August.

Anyway, this F*ck Im High playlist was supposed to be my road trip playlist this summer. I wish to share the vibe with everyone who will find their way to this playlist. Let me know your thoughts about it!

You can check this link if you’re a Spotify user and this link if you’re an Apple Music subscriber. For reference, the playlist contains 23 songs and plays for 1 hour and 18 minutes. Here are the songs and artists included in the playlist:

  • Sunday – Forrest, Biskwiq
  • Through and Through – khai dreams
  • Janet – Berhana
  • Sunday Candy – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
  • Belong to You (feat. 6LACK) – Sabrina Claudio
  • Somethin Tells Me – Bryson Tiller
  • Every Kind Of Way – H.E.R.
  • Sahara – crwn, August Wahh
  • After the Rain – Willow Stephens
  • Cos I Love You – Tom Misch
  • Say You Love Me – Patti Austin
  • Lover Boy – Phum Viphurit
  • Train in Vain (Remastered) – The Clash
  • Shake It Loose – Astronauts, etc.
  • Shine On Top – Surfaces
  • Scared Money – NxWorries, Anderson .Paak, Knwledge
  • Me & You – HONNE, Tom Misch
  • Younger – Ruel
  • Love Me Less (feat. Quinn XCII) – MAX
  • Good Day – Surfaces
  • Morning – Marc E. Bassy
  • Traffic In The Sky – Jack Johnson
  • Wait – crwn, Jess Connelly

New relationships

My 2019 was a disaster. It’s a difficult year for me, if not the worst one. I have to admit, I made lots of bad decisions last year which made me think twice about how I’d take on my 2020. I made up my mind: I will dedicate this year as my year of redemption. I want to focus on my professional development, to improve my well-being, and to find comfort in solitude. I knew I was ready to shut everything down and disappear. But then, somebody came and changed my mind.

Our first conversation had been about how fond I am with reading books. He said he couldn’t even finish a book. I get it – reading books is not really for everybody. I’m happy that he noticed that from me.

Anyway, we weren’t supposed to see each other until 29 March because we both like things when it’s planned down to the smallest detail. We wanted to go to this restaurant in Antipolo City but the COVID-19 situation got worst and we had to cancel that. One random weekend night, I asked him if he’s free to meet me. I wasn’t sure where to take him. Pampanga was clearly on top of my mind but thought it would already be too late for us since we left Metro Manila past 9pm already. We spent the night somewhere in Quezon City and Taguig over food, coffee, booze, and stories. It was probably one of the longest yet the best night I’ve ever had in my recent memory. We connected on so many levels and ways that I am actually lost for words to describe what I felt at that moment. 

I was afraid that he might be another case of hi-hello-goodbye. After a series of failed dating attempts and cheating incidents in the past, I couldn’t help but remain skeptical and guarded. However, he was a different story.

My worries and insecurities are out of this world, I tell you. Yet he gives me a sense of validation at the right time, without asking for any of it.

I have the tendency to think that I’m not enough. Without any hesitation, he makes me feel that I’m the best part of his life now.

I am apologetic for almost anything in life. Despite his lack of patience, he provides me assurance that my ‘sorry’ should be reserved for something more serious simply because he understands.

You know what? I’m honestly still scared that everything is happening too fast. But the thing is, I’m ready to grab whatever the universe throws my way. I never asked for something big but life has blessed me with so much more than what I have hoped for.

And if you ask me if I’m happy, I would gladly say no.

Why? Because what we have for each other is more than the feeling of happiness – it is that true sense of security that we know cannot be found everywhere.

You are the sunrise to my sunset.
You are the Yin to my Yang.
You are the warmth in my coldest night.
You are the cool breeze in my summer days.

Thank you. Padangat takang maray!

+++

What is Happy Hour and why is it important to our company culture?

Getting stamped to claim free food and booze.

According to a study, 79% of people who quit their jobs cite ‘lack of appreciation’ as their reason for leaving. This claim backs up our quarterly Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) surveys at TaskUs when we asked teammates about their reasons to leave the company and their top five (5) most common answers were: (a) unmanageable workload; (b) undefined metrics and goals; (c) incompetent salary and benefits, (d) lack of opportunities to grow, and; (e) change in the workplace culture.

This is where the idea of Happy Hour comes in.

The history of Happy Hour at TaskUs

Some lovely Mexican treat for everyone.

TaskUs started hosting Happy Hour in 2014 where we allow our colleagues to down a bottle or two of booze, serve some healthy snacks and encourage everyone to bring their ridiculously good self to work. A little caveat that TaskUs has other rewards schemes, such as the group-based and individual-based referral promos, and LizardBear Club for our top performers, but the goal for these Happy Hours is to extend gratitude to everyone who has been consistently performing and to recognise people who have significantly contributed to the development of their team and helped the company reach its goals for a particular timeline.

TaskUs’ 11th year x Fort Excellence’s 1st year

Last Friday, we celebrated two anniversaries at our office in Bulacan. We celebrated TaskUs’ 11th year and the 1st year anniversary of Fort Excellence, our Bulacan site’s moniker. It’s my first time attending Happy Hour in the office this year and I was able to witness and capture on photos how talented our teammates are!

With the help of our HR team and operations leaders, we commended those who joined and represented Fort Excellence at the LizardBear Cup, TaskUs’ annual sports fest, last month. Everyone who participated was recognised and applauded by the team, whether they made a podium finish or not. They all got exclusive TaskUs merchandises and the winners received more.

Special thanks to our lovely hosts that day, Barbie and Daisy, for making sure everyone’s engaged and welcomed throughout the program! We look forward to many more Happy Hours with you. Thanks for sharing your time and hosting skills!

Some more photos from the event…

Why Happy Hour?

The good thing about hiring outstanding people is we could always expect high performance from them. In order for colleagues to stay engaged at work, the business should help colleagues unlock their true potential and never see them as dispensable resources of the company, and this is where I’m proud of TaskUs.

I like how Jaspar Weir, the President and Co-Founder of TaskUs, explained our greatest commitment on this article. By promoting a good employee experience journey, we uphold the People-First culture of TaskUs. Hence, we are rewarded by over-the-top performance from our colleagues and we are confident that our clients are in good hands. By creating a culture of collaboration, we are encouraged to treat everyone with respect and to listen to crazy but amazing ideas which will help us disrupt our current processes and discover new ways to do things.

We do not see the ideas of working hard and having fun as mutually exclusive from each other. Through Happy Hour – a simple, cost-efficient and engaging way of recognising people – we’re able to keep our employee satisfaction high, our attendance have drastically improved and voluntary attrition has went down. In turn, more teammates are producing more quality outputs through increased productivity at work.

There is no hidden formula and no perfect way to do employee engagement. The thing that sets TaskUs apart from the competition is how our team was able to realise what works best for the business and how the leaders pushed the limits and boundaries for us to remain a ridiculously good place to work at.

A Taste of Japan in the Philippines

Yu-Fu-In Yaikiniku and Japanese Restaurant
Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines

When I want to learn about someone I always ask them about their food choice. It’s music to my ears when I have an idea about the kind of food that they consume and understand their eating behaviours because it creates a ton of opportunities for me to ask them more questions and never let the momentum die down. Really, it will be an understatement if you say that I love food because I really do.

Leo from Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on Instagram @leosamilo!

Last August 2019, I met Leo, a Filipino-Canadian based in Vancouver, who was in the Philippines for a quick vacation with his family. Through him, I had a delightful time learning about Vancouver, how the city is known for fresh seafood and how he’s a huge fan of Japanese food.

After my work schedule, I drove from Meycauayan City, Bulacan to Quezon City to fetch him. On my way to meet him, I thought of bringing him to Manila (around Malate) but I didn’t know any good and authentic Japanese restaurants around. So I thought, why not Yu-Fu-In in Angeles City, Pampanga since that’s been my go-to Japanese restaurant ever since 2016? Boy, it did not disappoint!

Osushiya San Bento

My craving for yakiniku was left unaddressed when we got to Yu-Fu-In. Their yakiniku was only available until 10pm and we got there about 15 minutes past 10pm. They have this yakiniku set + hot pot (good for 2-3 persons) which does not cost more than 1300 Pesos ($25). We were left without a choice but to order something from their regular menu.

Since he mentioned that he like sushi and fresh seafood, I made sure to get my staple fix of Oshushiya San Bento for only 490 Pesos ($9.42). What’s nice about this bento is you get to try nine (9) of their best sushi and it gives you an idea what to order next as a starter. My personal favourite would be the Ika Nigiri Sushi (Squid Hand-formed Sushi) because of how it just melts in your mouth.

Salmon Sashimi

It would not be a complete Japanese dining experience without ordering some nice sashimi (thin-sliced raw fish or meat). Salmon Toro (Salmon Belly) was our choice but it was not available at that time. Our attendant suggested Salmon Sashimi for only 295 Pesos ($5.67) and I know that it’s good.

I was quite hesitant ordering this because I’ve had an experience in the past when the sashimi from a different restaurant was awful. Sashimi has a recognisable smell – a stingy, fishy one – and you would only get it if you smell it directly. However, if you sit upright and notice this smell, then that might be an indication that the sashimi isn’t good for consumption anymore. Luckily, that wasn’t the experience we’ve had at Yu-Fu-In!

More than its freshness, the sashimi was flavourful. I like having it with fresh wasabi but without the sauce. As much as possible, I would always avoid having sauce in any food. Japanese food has a distinct flavour which I love – not savoury but extremely mouthful.

I could eat Omurice (Fried rice wrapped in omelette) everyday for my entire life and not feel bad about it. I know other Japanese restaurants have a cheesy version of this which, by the way, is good but I like mine simple, plus this is cheap! I only got mine for 170 Pesos ($3.27) and it’s actually good for 2 persons already.

We didn’t know what kind of tempura (battered and deep-fried) to get so ordered this mixed tempura for only 380 Pesos ($7.31) which could already serve 2-3 persons. Aside from Ebi Tempura (battered shrimp), my favourite would be Ika Tempura (battered squid), and yes, you can already tell by now how much I love squid!

Kushiyaki Set

Kushiyaki is Japan’s version of BBQ. However, theirs aren’t limited to specific meat, like pork, but it could be any poultry and non-poultry items. This set has six (6) different kushiyaki and is already good for 2 persons. Each set costs 295 Pesos ($5.67) only and you have the choice whether to smother it in their homemade sauce or just have a dash of salt and pepper (our choice, by the way).

What I love about Japanese food and the Japanese dining experience is how they put premium about sharing food. You are sharing a portion of who you are to the person you’re with and you experience this satisfying connection that only a good food can create. It’s as if sharing your food with someone is a journey of mutual understanding and discovery. Maybe this is what we miss when we get too preoccupied about ‘adulting’ and we miss the chance of experiencing this connection, who knows? When was the last time you created a meaningful relationship with someone over and through food?

Yu-Fu-In is located at 1st Street corner 2nd Avenue, Balibago, Angeles City, Pampanga, 2009 (view map here). You may contact them at (045) 635 5537 / 0908 874 2847 / 0917 842 6627.

*$1 = 52 Pesos

closing chapters

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It wasn’t my feet that I buried in the sand but my feelings. The glistening sea water washed away the hurting. The humid breeze carried all my last thoughts about you and cleared my mind. The waves weren’t high but it was strong enough to push me back, which reminds me of my love for you – it wasn’t something others would notice at a first glance but it was strong enough to keep me coming back to you. The marvelous sunset filled my heart with so much joy and hope. I didn’t know anyone around that’s why crying was too easy for me.

The first thing that came to my mind was to share to you lots of things: how my day went, a photo of the beautiful beach, my getaway experience and what I’ve noticed so far, my plans for the week and invite you over for a dinner… but I know it wouldn’t make much of a difference now so I resisted doing so. Knowing you, I know you’d say and insist that it’s fine if I talk to you but I also know that the dynamics have already changed it wouldn’t be the same as before.

It was not my intention to leave. In my mind, I knew that it was okay to hold on; that I recognise I was in this phase where things wouldn’t be easy. I was mentally ready for the chaos but my emotions were too fragile to handle the situation. I was not able to see things through as I would normally do. My heart was not strong enough and my spirit was shaken. I’m sorry. I was in a sinking ship and I have no other option but to save myself.

When one chapter closes, another one begins right after. The reality is it will never be an easy read and we may not like everything about what we’re reading now. For sure, we will keep coming back to our favourite parts and that’s okay for that’s where we’ll draw inspiration from. Our journey will continue and we should not be afraid about the next parts because we’re all destined for something great; something magical and surreal. It might not be now but I am sure it will happen.