To be honest, working for government never crossed my mind while I was growing up. Like most people, I’ve complained about its services (or lack thereof): the inefficiency, corrupt practices, and taxes being wasted. In fact, my mistrust in government made me believe that if any positive change were to happen, it were to be from outside it. During my years in college, I did volunteer work and joined school organizations thinking that the good it brought was in spite of, and not because of, our government.
However, a few years back, my perception of our government started to change. A friend told me about how he left his corporate job to join a government agency. He said he was fulfilled by his work, knowing that he was trying to make a difference by avoiding corrupt practices in government through their projects. I was interested, but still not completely sold on the idea of a career in government.
As a fresh college graduate, unsure of what I wanted, to my surprise a special project under an education government agency caught my attention. What struck me first about the job was that it was beyond my expectations of government work. I was informed that it was headed by someone young, was filled with capable people my age, and had the goal of making one of the biggest education reforms to ever happen in the country. It was refreshing to hear what sounded like my ideal government, one which seemed genuinely interested in serving its constituents.
Needless to say, I said yes, and haven’t regretted my decision to jump into buhay gobyerno since.
Coming in, I felt like I was part of a student organization again, only this time with highly qualified people from different schools. It had the same spirit of volunteer work that I enjoyed which brought people eager to serve together. Meeting them, my impression of government workers as slow and inefficient was immediately debunked. Here was a bunch of very passionate, smart, and talented individuals driven to help the country, even with unpaid overtime and work on holidays and weekends.
Through the highs and lows, our motto has been “para sa bayan” (for the country). I realized quickly that the friendships formed were necessary for our sanity as projects demanded so much from each team member. We were thrusted into the challenge of implementing a project through over 7,000 islands, and learned that it required long travels to regions, dealing with several stakeholders, and unfortunately, restrictive red tape.
My job in communications means that my team is first to hear stakeholders’ questions and concerns. On my first day, my boss explained that in a time when people are used to being left hanging by a government service, we had to make them feel cared for. It is a task that we have taken to heart, and is as daunting as it is rewarding.
Being in the front line means I hear the stories of the average Pinoy, and have experienced firsthand a full range of emotions, from angry rants on delays outside our control to screams of joy when they are informed of a scholarship. I appreciate even more now the gratitude of Pinoys, and how amidst all the hardships, we as a people are endlessly thankful for any opportunity to improve our lives and that of our families’.
Through this job, I have seen the best and worst in government. While I’ve encountered personalities who seek to serve their self-interest, I have met many more dedicated workers from all parts of the country. While projects are a struggle to implement with cumbersome systems and internal politics, I am deeply inspired and humbled both by my colleagues and the people we serve. While I am now more understanding of government delays, I take pride in the fact that I am in a team that still seeks to provide quality service for the people.
Recently, I received a call from someone whom I presumed was a parent. It turned out that she herself wanted to go to college after all these years. The opportunity to tell her that she could and the excitement in her voice reminded me of the ‘why’ behind buhay gobyerno.