• Sekyus, yayas and OFWs: The Filipino universe

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    Ma. Isabel Ongpin

    I HAVE been impressed with our security guards for some time. I think it is because they are caring, helpful and understanding and that is because they are Filipino.

    Certainly, the questions one gets from them entering some of the exclusive gated villages can be annoying: “What are you going to do there?’ when one gives an address. But I have always put it as being orders from the residents’ association which must be carried out to the letter. The security guards are not to blame.

    Whenever I have to go to a government office as a taxpayer, the one who treats me best is the security guard. When I applied for a passport at a mall branch of the DFA Passport Office, it was the security guard who gave me the instructions, told me where to sit and then summoned me to the next stage of the application process. He looked out for one applicant and I expect all other applicants. I doubt if his job description as a security guard included office management but there he was managing the applicants.

    One of my friends picked up her passport, went home and looked at the dates and was shocked to see that her passport said January 14 and then January 19, mistakenly concluding that the passport office forgot to put the years concerned as in 2014 and 2019. She rushed back in hysteria to demand a correction and the first person she met was the security guard who gently told her 14 was passport shorthand for January 2014 and January 2019 effectivity and expiry dates, respectively. That saved her from making a fool of herself, my friend said.

    At the Social Security System branch office in Mandaluyong, I have to show myself once a year to show that I am alive and therefore deserve my SSS pension. It is quite a drudgery having to do this seemingly trivial task among others who have more serious matters to look into, are way ahead of you, and the place is short of space. Thank goodness, the security guard upon finding out what I was there for pointed me to the right desk and the right way to queue. Otherwise, I would have had to interrupt the overburdened SSS personnel attending to case after case.

    Mall guards are invariably polite and welcoming even if they have to poke into your handbag for security purposes. You can ask them any silly question like where is this store or that restaurant instead of looking at Information and they readily and willingly give you the answer. Patience is their steady virtue.

    Yesterday, a security guard at the National Book Store in Mandaluyong made my day. I went there looking for a book and expecting the usual delay or puzzled reaction from the Customer Care person. Why? Because just last week I came looking for a book, waited while the Customer Care person wrestled with her computer and the client who was asking for what seemed some book she was quite unfamiliar with. After the long wait with no results for the customer, it was my turn. I gave the book title and she laboriously looked for and found it on the computer, told the salesgirl who volunteered to get it and I followed. It was not where it was supposed to be. We both looked, no book. She dashed off some distance and came back, no book. Finally, I guessed that it being a new book, it should be in the New Arrivals. And that is where we found it. Success after some false moves. In truth, if salespersons are not readers they will have a difficult time working in a bookstore. And, alas, most of them are non-readers for whom books are very foreign objects.

    Therefore, when I went back yesterday to the same store to look for another book, I was annoyed to find no one at the Customer Care desk and was about to leave when the security guard asked what book I wanted and gave me a slip of paper and a ballpen to write the title of what I was looking for. I skeptically did as told, he looked and said, “Dito”, reached into a nearby shelf and handed the book to me. It was at the New Arrivals shelf and he must have seen and remembered what books were there, or maybe someone had looked for the same book before I did. Whatever, he served a customer quickly and competently. Hurrah for security guards.

    Occasionally, there have been incidents when security guards go berserk usually upon provocation like direct contempt for rules they have to impose, personal insults or demeaning treatment of them as security guards or persons. These are unfortunate incidents and have brought them conviction and jail time. I do not excuse them but I do say that they are few and far between considering the huge number of security guards at work everyday at their jobs. It behooves us to remember that they are human beings and must be treated with consideration as such.

    Other job holders that are most helpful are waiters. They serve cheerfully and do extra work taking photos of the customers with the customers’ phones, attending to demanding children, diplomatically requesting senior citizens if they possess senior cards and then pretending to be surprised that they are seniors. This is not in the job description of waiters anywhere or even here but it is taken as such.

    Another group that I find very helpful even if I am not personally acquainted with them are yayas or nannies. They are invariably friendly and solicitous to strangers who look lost or confused or seem to need information for where they want to go or who they are looking for in public places or unfamiliar neighborhoods. Moreover, if one is a friend or acquaintance of their employer, they regard you as a friend or acquaintance too.

    So, let us go to drivers. They all know you if their employer does. And they are friendly and helpful too. They greet one, offer to carry a package or open a car door with the goodwill and fellowship of friendliness.

    Then when you travel abroad and need help – directions, advice, information of where to go, buy something, whatever, approach any Filipino around and you will unhesitatingly be helped. Sometimes they go too much out of their way but then that is the spirit.

    Some years ago, I was at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, the city center, where I was told I could find a certain canned sausage. It was the equivalent of high noon in Spain, 2 p.m. of a hot summer day, and I was getting nowhere in my quest. From walking with a purpose I was now trudging aimlessly and getting tired. Then I saw a Filipina walking by and I was inspired to go over and greet her “Magandang umaga!” whereupon she broke into a wide smile after the initial surprise. She knew exactly what I was looking for and where to find it; a few turns here and there, and I found the grocery.

    It makes me smile and be happy and thank Providence for this friendly Filipino universe.

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    1 Comment

    1. Mario Santos on

      Well written, thank you.
      It’s nice to read that someone notice the extra professionalism carried-out over and beyond duty.