My Unforgettable Stint as a “Journalist”

journalistI worked  briefly (for a month) for an online news site  before I flew to South Korea to work as an English teacher in 2013. The name of the said news site was The Vincent Times (www.vincenttimes.com). In 2015, when I tried to access their website I could no longer find it. I don’t know if they closed up shop or they only changed name and web address. The name of the person who contacted me and offered me the job was Codie Vince. I don’t know if that is his real name.

At that time, I was really looking for a writing job on-line because I wanted to test my mettle as a writer and, of course, earn an extra income as well.

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In 2011, I gave up a writing job at Academia-Research (academia-research.com) because I don’t like the scheme of needing to bid against fellow writers to get a paid writing job with the one asking for the lowest price getting it. What I thought when I joined them and had to undergo the rigorous process of passing their exams and needing to submit a sample article which should pass their standards was I would be given writing assignments by them and be receiving remunerations for my outputs.

So, when I received an offer from Mr. Vince, I accepted it. In the subject line of the e-mail (above)  it says that the position offered was as a journalist.  I said to myself, “Wow! Should I take this I’ll become a journalist.”

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I noticed the mistakes he committed in his first two emails but I just ignored thinking that he was just careless.

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I responded to his email.

He answered all my questions and in his next email explained to me everything that I needed to do.

We exchanged some more emails before I finally started writing my first article for “The Vincent  Times.”

It was so unfortunate that that time I was at the threshold of  making a big career move – literally speaking. The university here in South Korea where I applied for a teaching job hired me. I had to resign from my job (as School Principal) and from the Philippines I flew to this country on the 2nd of March, 2013. I could not focus much on my writing weeks before (and even immediately after)  that because I had to do a lot of paperwork for my next job and had to ensure also that everything would be in order before I leave the school where I was still working.

BEFORE NEXT

When I accepted the job offered, I was able to produce only five articles per week (instead of ten) and I informed Mr. Codie that I would stop writing.  He seemed to be satisfied with my output that he allowed me to write just five articles per week.

I wrote a total of seventeen articles for “The Vincent Times.” The last one was on February 26, 2013 – one week before I left for South Korea. I informed him that I would be busy that week so I would not be able to submit articles until I get settled in my new work place.

I wanted to write for them again but the adjustment that I had to make when I started working in South Korea – new job and new environment – had my plate full. It took a couple of months before I could go back to serious writing.

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After my first week in South Korea, I tried to contact Mr. Vince through email and Skype. I did not get any response. I tried several times more thereafter but it puzzled me why he wasn’t responding.

I wrote another email telling Mr. Codie that had he actually unofficially fired me and I would no longer be writing for his online news site then at least he should pay me for the articles I have written for “The Vincent Times.”

I did not get any  response also.

LAST LAST LAST

Actually, after my 10th article, I inquired as to when will I get paid. In response, he sent me the email on the left.

I trusted Mr. Codie for he seemed to me a decent and honest man. I also did what was expected of me  – write five articles every week.

last onbe desktop

Another  week passed, I wrote five more articles but my salary remained unpaid.  I decided to send him another email and here was his response.

After that I sent him details of my bank account and requested him to just transfer that amount there if he’s having difficulty with PayPal. I should be getting I guess around 100 US dollars. Not much but it feels good to receive a certain amount as a reward for your hard work.

I wrote two more articles after that. I thought he would pay me at least before I fly to South Korea. That was wishful thinking.

Whatever happened to Mr. Codie and his “The Vincent Times” and why he did not pay me for my services remain a mystery to me.

It was just a  small amount of money and I am not running after it but what I really would like to know is why Mr. Codie did what he did and am I the only one victimized by him.

Another question is “Are there other news sites (and similar organizations) like “The Vincent Times” victimizing writers asking them to write and promising them pay which they would never give?”

You can read here  the articles I wrote in the said online news site.

During the First Day of Class

(A Personal Essay)

adult blur books close up

Each meeting with my students is important but it’s the first day that I consider very special – the most strategically important. It’s the day that I would attempt to accomplish one of the hardest things to do in education – to shatter the students’ image of the classroom as a prison cell, with them as  prisoners and the teachers as nasty prison guards. It’s the day when I begin to lay the foundations of what  every teacher should endeavor to forge between them and their students – a good rapport. The entire semester is a long haul and I know that winning their hearts – making them comfortable in my presence – would make our journey together as enjoyable and productive as it could be. If I succeed in making them trust me, half of the battle is already won.

There’s nothing very special about the way I conduct my first meeting with my new students. It’s just a bit unconventional.

My introduction would always include telling my students the nickname which I adopted with the intention of eliciting laughter whenever I deliver a talk – Tonitonipoponibananananapoponinomimayfofoni. (That’s inspired by the song “Name Game.”) Amazingly, when I tell my students that and jokingly threaten them to memorize it if not they would fail in my subject, they would try very hard to repeat it after me and laugh at themselves if they wouldn’t be able to say it.

Then I would add, “Whoever could say my nickname correctly will get an A+.” I don’t mean it of course. Luckily, up until this time, no one among those who tried succeeded. It was me who would always succeed – in getting their attention.

From there, I would give them the necessary information about me as their teacher. The most significant of those information (as far as I am concerned) is the number of years I have been teaching. It currently stands at 30 years. The point I wish to drive home for highlighting to my students how long I have been teaching is – I wouldn’t stay this long in the academe if I don’t love my job.

The next part of my first-day-of-class script would touch the boundaries of philosophy.

I would be delivering something like an “eve-of-battle” speech. The way they do it in movies.

I would ask my first question: “Why am I teacher?”

Puzzled, the students would grope for an answer.

I would give  follow-up questions after that – Would you call a woman a mother without a son or a daughter? Are your mothers and fathers mothers and fathers without you as their children?

Amid their “aahs” and nods I would then say, “I am a teacher because of the students. My reason for being a teacher is each of you. Without you I am not a teacher.”

That’s my way of telling my students that the most important stakeholder in a school are them. Schools exist because of them. School administrators and teachers have work because of them.

That’s my way of telling them that I exist (as a teacher) to serve their interest.

I would end that part with the following statement: “Thank you for having me as your teacher.”

After that I would show them a videoclip from the movie “Collateral Beauty” – that part where Howard Inlet, a character played by Will Smith, delivered a speech in a gathering of his employees  at the beginning of the movie.

He said “What is your why? Why did you even get out of the bed this morning?   Why did you  eat what you ate? Why  did you wear what you wore? Why did you come here?”

I would pause the video clip after each question and would ask them to give an answer.

Then I would ask them follow-up questions. (These were the only questions I asked when I was not yet using that movie clip.)

Why are you here in school?

Why do you want to finish your studies?

The last question I would ask – Why did you enroll in this class?

I never failed to ask the said questions because I want my students to understand that for them to succeed not only in their studies but in all their present and future endeavors, they need to set goals. They ought to know their whys. They must know the reasons why they do what they do, say what they say, and think what they think.

I would tell them also that the worst “why” to have for studying is to get A+  – that grades are not the be-all and end-all of schooling.

All of the foregoing would be finished in twenty to thirty minutes.

I would then ask the student to introduce themselves.

After all of the foregoing , that’s the only time that I would present the course syllabus – explain the course objectives, give the topics to be discussed weekly, and tell them what activities will be done in the class and how they are going to be graded.

It’s not surprising to see the students frown when they see the course requirements on the last page of the syllabus. That’s the time that I would deliver the last part of my “eve-of-battle” speech.

I would ask – “Is learning fun?”

As expected, majority would say “no.”

My next question would be – “Is work fun?”

Of course the students would say “no” again. And every time I would ask that, one or two would say “My father always complains about his job.”

Then I would go on and tell them the following:

“Nothing is to be given to you in a silver platter. You need to work hard to achieve your dreams. Studying and working would require effort – you have to exert mentally, emotionally and physically. But something could make studying and working fun – your attitude. Your attitude towards studying will be dictated by your whys. Your whys put together is your philosophy.”

I would spend another minute or two to explain something about “personal philosophy.” At the end I would tell them that each teacher has a personal teaching philosophy and mine is as follows:

“The classroom is my playground. The students are my playmates. The subject is our toy.”

How surprised they would be whenever I say that when I come to class I don’t work, I play. Work is hard. Play is fun.

As we end the first meeting I would tell them, “Come back next week and let’s play.”

Bakit Espesyal Ang Unang Araw Ko Sa South Korea

nikki randy and i

Madaling araw ng ikalawa ng Marso taong 2013 nang ako’y umalis ng Pilipinas sakay ng Asiana Airlines. Bandang alas-otso na ng umaga nang ito’y lumapag sa Pusan International Airport. Kasabay ko noon si G. Kenn Lachenal. Pareho kaming patungo sa South Korea upang magturo ng English sa Gyeoungju University.

Aaminin kong sabog ako noong panahong iyon, hindi sa droga, kundi sa napakadaming isipin tungkol sa mga mahal ko sa buhay at pangamba sa panibagong hamon na pinili kong harapin.

Labag sa kalooban kong lisanin ang mga mahal ko sa buhay, ngunit kaylangan. Ayaw ko rin sanang talikuran ang paraaalang pinaglikuran ko bilang Principal ng halos isang taon. Subalit ayaw na ayaw kong nagpapadaig sa aking emoyson, ayaw kong hindi gawin ang isang desisyon dahil nagpatalo ako sa mga emosyon. Pinag-isipan kong mabuti ang aking pag-punta sa South Korea upang magturo. Hindi ito biglaang desisyon. Bahagi ito ng mga plano ko. Isa itong balak na dumating na ang panahon upang isakatuparan at hindi ko papayagan ang mga emosyon ko upang ako’y pigilan.

Hindi ang pagnanais na makatanggap ng mas malaking sahod ang pangunahing dahilan kaya ako nagbalak mangibang bansa. Malaki ang sahod na tinatanggap ko bilang Principal noong panahong iyon. Malaking magpasahod sa mga principal nila ang mga Pakistani employers ko.  Bukod pa nga sa may kinikita  ako bilang academic consultant sa isang technical school at part-time teacher sa isang kolehiyo. Sapat ang kinikita ko sa Pilipinas kung tutuusin. Nakapagpatayo nga ako ng bahay. Ang problema – hindi na ako komportable sa loob ng aking “comfort zone.”

Nakaramdam kasi ako noon ng matinding pagkaumay sa pagsu-supervise ng mga guro’t empleyado. Parang walang pagbabago – wala ng hamon.  May kulang… kulang na gusto kong hanapin. Hindi nakatulong na may ilang personal na problema akong dapat ayusin. Napakalinaw na kaylangan ko ng isang napakalaking pagbabago sa aking buhay kung nais kong manatili ang aking katinuan. Kinaylangan kong  mangibang bayan para sa isang panibagong panimula.

Pakiramdam ko noo’y nasa isang deadend ako at batid kong merong mundo sa likod ng mga deadends. Iyon ang gusto kong puntahan… lakbayin.

Ang sabi nga ni Jake Sully, ang main character sa pelikulang “Avatar,” “Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move.” At katulad din ni Jake, may pangamba man ay sigurado ako sa aking gagawin bago ako tumalon upang makipagbuno at mapaamo ang sariling kong “Toruk.”

Dalawang bagay ang baon ko ng magpunta ako sa South Korea – tiwala sa sarili at pananalig sa Diyos. Laging ito ang kumbinasyong ginagamit  kong panangga sa lahat ng pagsubok at panungkit sa ano mang inaasam kong makamit.

Ang tiwala ko sa sarili at pananalig sa Diyos ay parang sandwich. Meron itong palaman – sipag at  tiyaga.

Hindi swerte ang hanap ko sa bansang pinuntahan, hindi ako naniniwala sa swerte.  Naniniwala ako na “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.” Ang pakay ko ay sumulat dito ng bagong kabanata sa aking buhay – bagong yugto sa tadhanang naniniwala akong ako ang dapat gumuhit. Batid  kong dapat lang na doblehin ko ang aking sipag at tiyaga.

Unang byahe ko iyon palabas ng bansa at mabuti na lamang na nakasabay ko si G. Lachenal. Bukod na sa matulungin ay sanay siyang bumiyahe sa labas ng bansa. Kaya medyo kampante ako. Sa Gyeoungju University nga din s’ya pupunta kaya nakakatiyak na akong hindi ako maliligaw.

Nang makarating kami sa Pusan International Airport ay nagulantang ako sa lamig. Nanuot  ito sa suot kong jacket.  Buong akala ko ay dahil tapos na ang winter at noo’y papasok na ang spring ay parang sa Baguio na lang ang lamig. Mabuti na lang at ang nasakyan naming bus papuntang Gyeoungju-si ay nakaandar ang heater. Antok na antok ma’y hindi ko magawang matulog sa biyahe dahil tinitignan ko ang bawat lugar na madaanan. Lahat ay bago sa aking paningin. Wika ko sa sarili’y, “Heto na ako sa South Korea.”

Matapos ang halos dalawang oras na biyahe ay nakarating kami sa Gyeoungju-si. Ang sumalubong sa amin ay G. Mark Celis. Siya ang naghatid sa amin sa apartment na aming titirhan, si G. Lachenal sa “white house,” ako nama’y sa “blue house.” Hindi sa Washington D.C. at Seoul ang “white house” at “blue house” na nabanggit ko. Iyon lang ang tawag sa mga apartments na provided ng Gyeoungju University para sa mga professors nila na galing ng ibang bansa. Kulay iyon ng pintura ng apartment. Meron din “yellow house” at “green house.”

Bago umalis si G. Celis ay tiniyak n’yang maayos ang unit na magsisilbi kong tirahan at ipinakilala din n’ya sa akin ang isa pang Pinoy na professor din sa Gyeongju University – si Dr. Randy Tolentino, nakatira rin sa “blue house.”

Pumasok na ako sa aking kwarto at doon ko unang naramdaman ang pakiramdam ng literal na nag-iisa, malayo sa mga mahal sa buhay at nasa isang lugar na hindi ko kabisado. Nakatayo lamang ako, hindi ko malaman kung ano ang una kong gagawin.

Nang medyo mahimasmasan ako’y binuksan ko ang aking maleta at unti-unti inayos ang mga dala kong gamit.

Tahimik ang paligid, wala akong marinig kundi ang mga sarili kong yabag at kaluskos. Nakakapanibago. Wala ang nakasanayan kong tahol ng mga aso, tilaok at putak ng mga manok, maingay na tambutso ng motor at ang malakas na stereo ng mga kapitbahay ko sa Pilipinas.

Matapos kong ayusin ang mga damit at gamit ko’y  bigla nanamang naramdaman ko ang sobrang lamig at nagsimula na rin akong makaramdam ng gutom. Walang laman ang refrigerator na nandoon. Nakakapanibago talaga. Sanay akong kapag kumalam ang sikmura ko, buksan ko lang ang refrigerator at solve ang problema ko.  Malinis ang maliit kong lamesa. Sa ibabaw nito’y walang tray na may lamang prutas. May gas stove kaya lang wala naman akong lulutuin.  Wala na nga ako sa Pilipinas. Pinagtyagaan ko na lang ang biscuit na ipinabaon sa akin ng aking butihing may.bahay

Naalala ko na kaylangan ko nga palang tawagan ang aking mga mahal sa buhay sa Pilipinas upang ibalitang nakarating ako ng malualhati sa South Korea. Nang kuhanin ko ang aking cellphone ay  noon ko pa lamang na-realize na hindi ko nga pala na-activate ang aking sim na roaming. Pakiramdam ko’y napakatanga ko, napamura ako ng hindi oras. Hindi ako makakatawag, ang cellphone ko’y magagamit ko lamang na parang music player.

Aaminin kong sa pagkakataong iyon ay inatake ako ng matinding kalungkutan. Gutom pa rin ako kahit naubos ko na halos ang baon kong biscuit. Nanginginig sa lamig. Nabibingi sa katahimikan – nagiisa’t walang makausap. Nangangamba rin ako na na baka nagaalala na nang masyado ang mga mahal ko sa buhay na naghihintay ng balita mula sa akin.

Sa pagkakataoong iyon ay naramdaman ko ang totoong kahulugan ng HOMESICK. Iyon eh matapos lamang ang ilang oras pagkalapag ko sa South Korea.

Pero sa kalagitnaan ng kalungkutang iyon ay napatingala ako sa langit at naala-ala kong ang pagtungo ko sa bansang ito’y naidulog ko na sa panalangin ng maraming beses. Hindi ko alam kung bakit pero sa pagkakaalam ko’y wala akong panalanging hindi n’ya dininig kaya. Ginawan ko nga iyon ng tula sa English. Anim na pantig lang…

HE answers.
Just wait.
Have faith!

Hihiga na sana ako upang lunurin na lang sa tulog ang gutom ko’t kalungkutan nang makarinig ako ng mga katok sa aking pintuan. Si Dr. Tolentino. Pumasok s’ya at nakipagkwnentuhan sa akin. Taga Iloilo siya. Hayun, at least may kausap na ako. Habang kami’y nag-uusap ay tinignan niya ang lutuan ko’t itinuro kung paano iyon i-operate. Maaring napansin n’yang giniginaw ako kaya’t itinuro din n’ya kung papaano gamitin ang floor heater. Medyo na-relax ako sa pagtulong na ginagawa n’ya noon. Binuklat n’ya ang mga drawer sa bandang kusina at doo’y nakakita s’ya ng ilang de-lata na hindi pa naman expired na maaaring sadyang iniwan ng dating nakatira doon. Umalis siya sandali at pagbalik ay may bitbit siyang ilang balot ng noodles at mga 3-in-1 coffee.

Nagulat ako sa generosity na ipinakita ni Dr. Tolentino na kalauna’y tinawag ko na lamang na sir Randy. Animo’y matagal na n’ya akong kakilala. Umalis ulit s’ya sandali at nang pagbalik niya’y sinabing, “Halika na brod, nakaluto na girlfriend ko, kain tayo.” Sumunod ako sa kanyang unit. Nagulat ako pero hindi na ako nagpakipot pa, hindi dahil sa talagang ako’y gutom sa pagkakataong iyon kundi dama ko ang sinseridad ng imbitasyon n’ya at nakakahiyang tanggihan.

Mainit ang mga inihaing pagkain, ngunit mas higit ang init ng pagaasikasong ipinakita sa akin nina sir Randy at ng kasintahan n’yang si Nikki na taga-China. Susubo na sana ako nang biglang nagdasal muna si sir Randy bilang pasasalamat, lumalalim at tumataas ang pagtingin ko sa kanya sa nakita kong iyon. Sa  unang subo ko ay nangilid ang luha ko sa kabutihang loob na nasaksihan ko sa kanila at sa kung gaano sumagot ng panalangin ang Panginoon. Nang napatingin sa akin ang magkasintahan ay pasimple kong sinabi na sinisipon yata ako kaya ako naluluha.

Pagkakain ay inihatid ako ni sir Randy sa aking unit, may bitbit pa s’yang ilang lutong pagkain. Sabi ko’y, “Sobra-sobra na ito bro!” Ngumiti siya’t sinabing aalis silang magkasintahan papuntang Daejon at gusto lang n’yang matiyak na may kakainin ako hanggang kinabukasan. Tapos bumalik s’ya sa kanyang unit at kumuha ng kasirola, kawali ang pakuluan ng tubig, pati ilang coffee sticks. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang sasabihin ko sa kanya noon, gusto ko s’yang yakapin sa pagtulong na ginagawa n’ya.

Hindi doon natapos ang pagtulong sa akin ni sir Randy. Nang malaman n’yang hindi ko magamit ang SIM ko na roaming ay ipinahiram nya sa akin ang isa n’yang smart phone at ang kanyang i-pod bago sila umalis at iniwang bukas ang kanyang wifi sa kwarto upang makagamit ako ng internet.

Wala na akong masabi sa pagkakataong iyon. Gasgas na paulit-ulit na “thank you” na sinasabi ko. Gusto ko sana s’yang yakapin pero nagmamadali s’yang umalis.  Nang makalabasa siya ng unit ko’y napapikit na lamang ako at tahimik na nagpasalamat sa  Kanya. Hindi naman ako mabait na tao. Mahina ako’t makasalanan. Mapagpala’t mapagmahal lamang talaga ang Panginoon sa mga tumatawag sa Kanya.

Napakapalad ko na sa unang araw ko pa lamang sa South Korea ay nakatagpo ako ng mga kaybigang katulad nina Randy at Nikki. Higit pa sila sa kaybigan – sila’y mga kapatid kong nanggaling sa ibang sinapupunan. Sila ang dahilan kung bakit espesyal ang unang araw ko sa South Korea.

Sina Randy at Nikki ay mga patotoo na napakabuti ng Panginoon.

 

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