Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Text Message

It’s 11:17 PM and I just stepped into our home. It’s been a long and tiring day which started with meetings around the metro before going to the House of Representatives for the session which starts at 4:00 PM.


I was scheduled to interpellate Cong. Junie Cua, the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, on Committee Report No. 1992 regarding House Joint Resolution 24. The measure proposes to authorize the President to make adjustments in the job classification and compensation of government employees.


When the deliberations started at around 5:00 PM, I was number six in the list of interpellators. I patiently waited for my turn, listening intently to the deliberations, which also helped me fine tune my own set of questions. I crossed out those in my list which had already been asked by the other congressmen. I came up with new ones based on the answers of the sponsor.


While the measure is proposing for an increase in the compensation of all government employees, there are those who are not satisfied, in the belief that they are entitled to more in order to make their compensation at par with other public sector employees who have higher salary grades in spite of the fact that they have lower qualifications.


The public school teachers are clamoring for a bigger increase because a public school teacher, whose entry qualifications require a college degree and a board certification, has a salary which is lower than an enlisted personnel in the AFP who is only a high school graduate.


To some, time seems so slow in the Session Hall. Not everything that is discussed there is as interesting as the screaming headlines of newspapers usually report. But to others, time flies as if you’re having fun. Well, it’s not really fun.  But it’s interesting. Before I knew it, it was already 8:00 PM.


There were two more interpellators before my turn. But the congressmen who were still in the hall (the patient few) had an agreement that it was time to call it a day. Everyone was already weary from all the debates, especially since the day started with committee hearings from morning until afternoon.


After the session was adjourned, I immediately rushed out to go to the White House in Cubao, where a party was ongoing in celebration of Senator Mar’s birthday. I was already dead tired, but I wanted to greet the senator personally.


There were a lot of guests when I got there, my fellow members of the Liberal party, some form other parties, from the private sector and prominent civil society members. Of course, the bride-to-be of the president-to-be was there and they looked the sweet couple that they are. It was actually my first time in the White House, and I marveled at its simple elegance. For someone who grew up in military camp in a proletarian life, it was a privilege. 


After some socializing, I couldn’t resist the desire to go home and rest. It was indeed a full day. Besides, I still had a 7:00 AM breakfast meeting the following day. Mercifully, the drive home  at that time was not like the usual crawl during rush hour traffic.


So I step into to my house, drawn by the prospect of taking a cold shower, lying down in bed and in the privacy of my bedroom, just wear my shorts and go shirtless, and cuddle with my wife. Ahhh…there’s no place like home….


But just as I was about to go upstairs, my cellphone receives a text message. I expect it to be a message from my wife, probably asking what time I’ll be home. But when I look at the screen, it shows an unknown number, meaning that it is a number not saved in my directory.


It is not uncommon for me to receive text messages or even calls from unknown numbers. Believe it or not, my cell phone number has remained unchanged for almost ten years now. I freely give it away, even to my constituents. That’s why my directory has over three thousand entries, although I have already lost hundreds or a thousand more when I changed cell phone units over the years. But the number remains the same.


I open the message. It’s from one of my constituents, and it read : “gud pm po cong. Biazon sna po m2lungan u po me mkpgtrbho snap o m2lungan u po aku kht anu po ok lng”.


Again, it’s not an uncommon message that I receive. Specially nowadays, many seek help regarding employment, scholarships, medical assistance and a host of many other personal concerns. It’s my barometer of the state of living of my constituents, perhaps even the country.


But no matter how often or how many messages of such nature I receive (I receive no less than 20 such messages a day, filling up my inbox and slowing down my phone), I can’t seem to get used to it. I still get emotionally burdened by each and every message, because I believe that once it has come to my knowledge, I feel obligated to do something about it.


Sometimes, messages come at a time that is supposed to be “my time”, but I still feel obligated to address the concern. For example, one Sunday (which for me is family day not just for me but also for my driver so I drive on that day) a constituent sent me a message asking for help in getting his child out of the hospital. His child was already well and he didn’t want another day to be added to the bill which was already beyond his capacity to pay. Usually, my office already has a procedure in helping constituents in such a situation.


But since it was a Sunday, my office was closed. I was not in my district and was visiting my in laws in Manila. But to simply say I could not help because there was no office and I was not in my district was something that I couldn’t bring myself to do. The call for me help already reached me. What am I to do?


It was actually not a really difficult decision to make. I drove back to Muntinlupa to meet up with my constituent and help him get his child discharged from the hospital. After that, I went back to my inlaws’ house where I left my wife and kids.


And so it is that I receive this message at this time of the night. I can only wonder what kind of worrying this person was doing in texting me at this time of the night. But the burden also becomes heavy on me since I don’t know how to help him with his request. During these times, I also know for a fact that many companies have frozen hiring, some even retrenching their employees.


As I now lie in bed, my mood is not as I was hoping for. Relaxation is now elusive, with deep thought on what I can do to help this person now occupying my mind. As we discuss proposed salary increases in Congress in which some are unsatisfied with the increase they are about to receive, there are those out there who don’t even have a salary to rely on.


Such a difficult world, indeed.


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