Issue of May 14, 2017
     
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2


Images and public service

 
Printing machines for photo studios are busier this time of the year. Aside from the usual graduation photos which will give rise to the production trends for April to July, the Philippine Civil Service Commission also issued a 2017 revision of the Personal Data Sheet (PDS). Included in the guidelines are specific instructions for the employee’s picture. This latest directive then had the thousands of government employees visit photo studios in conformity to the said requirement.

As a millennial government employee, I surmised that those employees belonging to the Generation Y would have indirectly taken this as an opportunity to apply their photography and editing skills. It is, after all, one of the trends that came along with the advent of social media. Despite the specific guidelines on the prohibition of computer-generated or photocopied pictures, I was a bit uncertain if this specific guideline would meet a hundred percent compliance rate.

And so, as any other government employee, I went to the most accessible photo studio. My brain had just barely started rewiring itself from coping with the last week’s submission of Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALN). But that process and the stack of erroneously filled-out forms reinforced the importance of awareness on specific guidelines and instructions.

The studio was packed. And while waiting for my turn, I took the time to observe what was going on around. Colleagues in blue were in the area as well as the workforce from the public works and infrastructure maintenance arm of the government and staff members of the nearby government hospital. The activity around me led my mind into an insight that despite the differences in agencies and in job descriptions and responsibilities, each person waiting to be photographed contributes to the growth and development of the country. But beyond the internalization and self-reflection, my attention was caught by the number of older employees requesting for past ID prints to be scanned and digitally attached with the hand written name tag with signature or have the file of a previously taken picture edited with the prescribed nametag and be reprinted for the PDS.

Just like anybody, perhaps they just wanted to look really nice and presentable in that government document. Who wouldn’t? We all have that one favorite ID picture. Perhaps it is in that particular photo where our smiles were captured perfectly, our eyes much brighter that they used to be, or that calm and comfortable impression appearing in a small piece of passport-sized photo paper. Genuine smiles do rarely come by and capturing their individuality in a photograph is like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Being young is not forever and as we grow older our physical traits age too. It dawned on me that perhaps all they wanted was to have that special state characterize them in the 2017 PDS. That frozen moment of bliss and comfort contained in a 4.5 cm. x 3.5 cm frame.

But on a positive note, the specific guidelines on the photo attachment highlight the journey and the development of a public servant. The creases on our faces represent our efforts of bridging quality services to the public. The hairs that turn gray and white embody the wisdom and wider scope of understanding the society, human connections, and limitations. The smiles – forced, momentary or the lack of it – is a symbol of commitment and resilience. It is a mark of sacrifices and compromise; missed personal and family milestones, the chase for passion and the realization of our oaths for results and accomplishments.

And so just like any other public servant, I proudly held my hand written name tag with signature and faced the camera. I had dark eye circles and in my mind I had visualized the outcome looking like a mugshot or the before part of a “before and after” commercial, but it tells the story of a meaningful journey. This forever frozen image of a public servant will join the stack of others with different facial lines and furrows, diverse stages of eye bags and shades of eye circles; but the common meaning they share is priceless.
 

2


For peace

 
I had a student who was asking for her grades because it was a requirement for financial assistance in the government’s Pantawid Pamilya Program.

She was failing, not only in my subject, but in her other subjects as well. She begged for a passing mark because that was a prerequisite to get the allowance. I talked to the grandmother regarding her predicament. We gave her study options and she promised to comply. One day on my way home, I saw this student smoking. I summoned her and ask her to bring me to her grandmother. She had several excuses and I was not successful in visiting the family. She dropped before the school year ended. At this point, I know I failed.

I am reminded of this student today when I came across the story of the butterfly. A boy watched a caterpillar every day until it transformed into a cocoon. One day, a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.

So the boy decided to help the butterfly. He went home, took a pair of scissors but before he can snip off the remaining bit of the cocoon, a man passed by and said, “Don’t. The restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening are life's way of forcing fluid from the butterfly’s body into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.”

The struggles and challenges are exactly what we need in life. Like nature, we need no help, no interference. There are processes in life that we all go through. The difficulties in life are part of our journey. They prepare us for the challenges that await us. People say that, there are no problems that we cannot solve. Like the butterfly’s struggling out of the cocoon, our struggles and challenges are preparing us to fly too.

The assistance the government gives through the 4Ps is a springboard for destitute families to take off. Unfortunately, it makes some families too dependent. If the boy helped the butterfly, it would spend the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings like my student who will never be able to fly. My student dropped out and I see her loitering around. My colleague said the analogy would be beautiful if my ending is the student drops out and she should be compared to a lazy hog instead. One who wakes up last when all country animals are awake. One who stands only when the food is served. One who becomes ugly and fat.

Some abuse the 4Ps. What my student does not understand is that the kindness and generosity of the government should help them struggle and improve their way of living. Like the butterfly, they should get through difficulties and challenges that enable them to be ready to fly and face life’s difficulties with beauty and grace.
 

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