Telex the Tour Guide, Skype Romance, and the CDO River Survey Experience

In my previous post, I mentioned about Bacolod but it was about me and my friend Tine. I find it ironic writing about Visayas that way when I am actually in Mindanao soil. I was unable to capture the entire experience, but I am saving this subsequent blog post to mention another important person in my Bacolod trip with my friend Tine.  And that is none other than our good tour guide Telex. (No, I have not forgotten you, Sir. I was saving my thank you for this post because your utmost hospitality to me and Tine deserves an entire post in itself.)

With Bacolod being my first domestic leisure trip, I had no other means to compare the experience elsewhere. So when I flew to Cagayan De Oro last October 25 to survey a river, it was the first trip where I really felt a severe homesickness. This place is all new to me, I don’t speak Visayan dialect, and I really appreciated the presence of Tine and Telex more during my last out-of-Manila trip prior to CDO. It’s ironic because CDO is a place of extreme activities and well, I’m not exactly the adventurous type. I climbed seven waterfalls with a mountain level 1 difficulty, and I was already like a rolling and noisy can from 4th waterfall to 7th waterfall. I made sure not to look like it in my photos, but yeah, I was sedentary like that:

Mambukal Falls’ Elusive 7th Waterfall with Tiney

Going back to my CDO trip… I was just with my stuffed toy Cookie and my Milan Kundera novel (which I haven’t got the time to read at all!) as I braved the 2 hour turbulent flight. I hate riding planes and well, I was just gripping my rosary the whole time I was up there.

I arrived here with barely any clue of what to do or where to go. To make things worse, it was Signal Number 1 at the time of my flight. So I had moments where the airplane was moving vertically and people were already screaming a little inside the Cebu Pacific airbus. I stifled my screams because my guy seatmate was watching and waiting for me to scream. I did not want to give him any satisfaction. The plane was not able to land its usual route because of the strong winds. Forever thankful to the ultra-skilled pilot of Cebu Pacific for NOT RISKING the passengers just to land the usual way. He found a way to go above the turbulent parts and made a different maneuver as he landed.

Lumbia Airport on a Rainy Evening Landing


Camwhoring before the Turbulent Flight


My only friends who hail from CDO are both engineers who were working in Manila and Qatar, respectively, at the time of my arrival. Fortunately, I had fellow homesick but homely officemates who are working fulltime on the field with me on the Cagayan de Oro river project. They have been in the area for a month already when I arrived. I lived with them for a week, until I got spooked during Undas by a Sendong ghost in the house by Kauswagan road. It was my first ever encounter with witchcraft, so it was really a learning experience. I no longer want to elaborate but I am just thankful that I am now able to work without those setbacks.  Thanks, St. Benedict and Mama Mary (the Mother of God and the Mother of Paulo). I continue to remember in my prayers the 7,000 missing bodies buried by the same river we are surveying here in CDO. Only 1,000 were recovered during the recovery operations here last year.

Sendong's Cagayan de Oro River - The Powerful Force to be Always Reckoned with

Travel buffs are always posting about CDO’s whitewater rafting activities and its proximity to Dahilayan Adventure Park, the longest zipline in the world. I don’t have that experience from this “workation” but I was fascinatingly able to explore the innards of CDO River’s perimeter. I have immensely improved when it comes to being trained as a seasoned geodetic engineer. Two years of office work could not possibly match the level of technical learning I got from this challenging project:

Engr. Helen Mary Labao – camwhore at the GPS baseline

Surveying a river is tough. It’s not as easy as smiling for a camera in the early morning. (No need to post the evening pics cause I look like shit in them already. LOL.)

The Work-related Fieldwork Debutante in the Barracks

I was not able to participate much in the field activities because I was handling all the data taken from the field since September. While the rest of the team battled snake encounters and sharp grass blades piercing their sunburnt skin, I was mostly battling equations and trying to make sense of numerous leveling, traverse, cross section stakeout, and soundings data from my trusty office-issued Sony Vaio laptop which garnered dust and braved all these mental adventures with me.



Fieldwork Preparation of Coordinates from Satellite Image

This is what we find during actual fieldwork for the same area…


The Leveling Data Monsters I had to slay… LOL (I am at leveling loop 140+ now!)

At one point in my almost month-long stay here in Mindanao, I think I tweeted something like: Home is not necessarily a place, but it can also be a person. And I felt by my lonesome on most days because I miss my family and my boyfriend so bad. And the only semblance of family I have here are my officemates who are not living with me anymore after my first week. I practically lived here and stayed here longer than I stayed in Bacolod, Cebu, or Palawan. So as a reluctant traveler by nature, I really learned a lot. Staying here gave me more appreciation for my loved ones; I easily take them for granted when I am in Manila because I see them all the time. I also got to appreciate the wonders of googling a place you’re going to, and having a well-versed friend from the place of interest such as Telex in our Bacolod trip earlier this year.

Skype was VERY helpful.

Missing my love sooooo bad!

Also, I was here in CDO when my first ever successful matchmaking endeavor finally had its fruition. I am really very happy for my two friends Joseph and Maureen for finally meeting after months of BBM and Skyping romance. I love you to bits, you two. <3

Understandably, since I stayed in CDO longer, I was somehow able to discover the good food / accommodation options here despite my missing out on the famous whitewater rafting and zipline activities. I promise to write another post about CDO and show you what I loved about this second place I visited here in Mindanao.

(Trivia in case anyone finds it necessary: My first Mindanao trip was in General Santos City in 4th year high school for a writing contest.)

There’ll be more in the coming days when all this data madness is over.







The Practice

It’s been a month since I embraced the profession. When I was in college, I told myself that I would close that chapter of my life after I get my license. True enough, I went for an editing job in a publishing company after my board exam, and accepted a non-fieldwork stint in the transport sector shortly after.

In my two former jobs, I was crunching numbers with the manuscripts in the engineering section. I was crunching memos for high-level bosses who are quite busy and need a pair of speedy writing and slightly mapping hands. I was crunching days and days. I enjoyed some of it, but there was a void that I could not fill.

As a college student, I frequently secondguessed my choice of course. Geodetic engineering does not exactly fare too well for girly girls like me. But for some reason, I managed to finish that course and even accomplished a good thing on my board exam. Good enough to dispense board exam tips that actually work.

Still, I doubted myself. I did not exactly own up to that achievement. Instead of rising to the occasion, I explored other industries and tried to find my place there.

It’s only this year that I started considering the possibility of being a fulltime engineer, as in a full-pledged day job involving the practice of engineering. I avoided the heat of the sun for almost three years. I placidly and complacently placed myself in airconditioned rooms and board rooms and convention rooms. I dabbled in industries that I did not formally train for.

And what did I find when I took the engineering plunge last month? A real shocking truth about myself that I never expected. I found that I actually liked it. No, I don’t like it. I LOVE it.

It was not easy getting an engineering job after letting my license rot in my wallet for two years.

I took a board exam-like exam in a big construction company that I admired with its impressive affordable housing designs. On the day of my exam, I was taking the exam with the topnotcher from this year. I had to basically recall something I did not use for two years.

What’s worse, the geodetic world is small. The only person I knew in that company was not a close friend. In fact, while I liked her personality, I held a grudge against her. She was my classmate in a terrorizing subject. At the time, I got a failing grade and the professor took pity on her and allowed her to pass even when my final grade was legitimately higher than her grade. She merely knocked persistently on the teacher’s door, conveniently overriding around a dozen students in our class who got a singko. She got a tres because she begged her way and made use of her charm to make paawa.

In hindsight, it was one of the biggest injustices that a teacher has done to me. That entire sem, I studied hard for that subject. I was never late, never absent and took notes. On the other hand, that girl slept during class hours because she had a leisurely gimmick the night before. During exams, she photocopies my notes. I never even heard her apologize for what she did just to get ahead in her graduation goals. I envy my other classmates who got a 5.0, not knowing of this incident.

And she happens to work in that company. When I got interviewed by her boss, I was told that they hire people based on “diskarte… Yung pumapasa kahit hindi dapat pumapasa…” Aside from passing judgment on my frail looks, they even promote corruption just to get things done.

With that remark, I knew that while it was suitable for my cheating ex-classmate, it was not the right place for me.

I eventually forgave my cheating ex-classmate for cheating at the expense of half of our class that semester. And I also thank her boss for that phrase, because that was my only cue for determining that I was applying in the wrong place.

So anyway, I no longer expected a phone call given that remark. And I moved on. I tried to contact a friend who works for a consultancy firm. And that’s how I ended up discovering that after all that mental circus, I was really meant to become a lady geodetic engineer.

I suffered a lot in college. People tell me I am very intelligent. Perhaps. But it did not insulate me from the pains of obtaining a degree in engineering. It used to be an acid test that had me bitter when I was there, better when I was out with diploma and license in hand.

I used to have a latent hate of my teachers. But now I look on them with so much gratitude and love. Because they made it so hard. And in making it so hard, they made my working in the real world as an engineer so much easy. It’s not easy. But it’s the kind of difficult that I was trained to handle in life.

I look at my classmates in college now. Most of them are successful, earning six-digit salaries abroad, and well-respected by their families and friends. We probably share that gratitude for our engineering teachers who took the time to make it hell in college but heaven in the career world afterwards. Thank you, my teachers in UP. In spite of my delinquencies, you have taught me well.

From a girl who frequently secondguessed her engineering course and twice considered shifting to Journalism and European Languages, I became a woman who sought the field, thirsted for adventured, and craved for the brutal but rewarding arms of the technical world. My desire for practicing went beyond limbic. I come to work always happy. I open the office on most days, and I am the last to leave, even.

And inside, I now possess the certainty that I made the right choice. This is ironic because all those years, I was scowling until graduation day. Now, all I feel is gratitude and love and an unparalleled peace of mind.

Wow, it’s actually possible that you hate something seemingly while you were learning the ropes of it. But you actually end up loving it later on. This is what happened to me. And I want to share this because I know there are many engineers in the making who can relate. And I want to encourage you to keep on. It will fall into place, eventually. Just keep on.

I can still write. Yes, I can still explore the nuances of social media. And yes, I am an engineer in word, in license, and in deed.

I love it. I finally fully welcomed the practice of my profession, and it has welcomed me back with so much love, acceptance, and possibilities for the future.

The Number 12

Early this afternoon, I went to the publishing house to sign my job offer formally… I was already informed some weeks back that I stand a good chance of getting the job. There were delays, but I eventually got it. I just patiently held out to this offer because I knew deep in my heart of hearts that this is where I am meant to work. This is the final applicant pass that I had to secure from them. From today onwards, I am officially part of the company.

the number 12

Inside the waiting area, I was fidgety and ultra nervous. It felt like I was taking the board exam again. I left the Umberto Eco novel and my notebook so there was nothing to do except stare at the Applicant ID, which happened to bear the number 12. All my fears were gone when I saw that number, because I knew that everything’s settled. It was a sign I did not ask for, but a sign that helped me calm down, nonetheless.

What’s so special about 12?

Our Lady of Guadalupe, the intercessor of the unborn, has a feast day on December 12 (12-12). And I visited her national shrine in Guadalupe, Makati around 2 weeks ago. I prayed to her in particular about this job and my love life. Since I converted to the Catholic faith, I struggled with the concept of the Virgin Mary. But ever since things got clearer for me spiritually, I have this super devotion to this particular apparition of Our Lady.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Ever since I started venerating the Virgin Mary again, I actually say four Hail Marys in front of any Our Lady of Guadalupe image. It has become a habit for me. I pray her Memorare too whenever I feel sad or whenever I feel that one or more of my friends need some motherly love.

Anyway, when I was in the National shrine (that was my first time, by the way), I stood for what seemed like an eternity in front of her giant image there (which was taken from the original cloth of St. Juan Diego himself). Nag-emote lang ako dun, I did not care about the people around me. There were so many people there, but I didn’t care. I just stayed there for as long as I can and I told her everything a child will tell her mother.

What made me love her so much? The story of her four apparitions was the thing that struck me the most about Our Lady of Guadalupe. I may have all the information mixed up or something; I don’t remember all the details from the book verbatim but I hope my story works to give a good backgrounder on why she means this much to me.

There was a certain saint named Juan Diego in Mexico who walks around 64 miles daily in the cold dawn to attend Mass. At the time, Mass was only allowed weekly. Today, we can have Mass everyday, with schedules of 2-4 times a day even in some cathedrals or churches.

This guy happened to be walking around the Mount of Tepeyac when Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared to him. It happened again three times after, with him being sent to the Bishop for an instruction to build a church in that very place where she had the apparition.

Apparently, Juan Diego was asked to pick some flowers at the top of that hill. Our Lady arranged it in his tilma (laborer scarf). So Juan Diego carried that scarf with the sweet smelling flowers. But then when Juan Diego reached the Bishop’s office, the flowers fell off and they saw the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Scientists have studied the tilma that continues to be preserved in the Tepeyac shrine in Mexico. There are no earthly colors to describe it. Also, the tilma was very fragile. If not for some stroke of miracle, this image would have been reduced to ashes already. Also, in all of the apparitions of Our Lady, Our Lady of Guadalupe image was the only image that she knitted herself. All the others were artistic depictions; this was an original gift from Heaven.

Of course, it wasn’t all clouds and chocolates for Juan Diego. He was a very poor man and he had a very sick uncle. His uncle happened to be sick somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd apparition. He did not want to follow Our Lady’s instructions anymore. But Our Lady talked to him, comforted him and told him that his uncle will be cured.

True enough, after he delivered the magic tilma to the Bishop, he went back home to see his uncle alive and well. Also, the uncle said that he saw her and healed him personally.

So there. Sounds like a fairy tale but this is supported by the Catholic Church doctrine which I have faith in. And for the many times I prayed to her really huge intentions, I felt her helping me get close to God each time.

I prayed that I be given strength to get out of a toxic relationship. I prayed that I find the job that will not let me give up writing or engineering. I prayed for more consistency in the way I do my work. These were all given and more.

Her and the novena to St. Josemaria Escriva. Plus of course my quiet time with my Bible and mental prayers in the mornings before I do any work.

On with the symbolisms of her appearance. The tie below her bosom is a sign of maternity (ancient Mexican women wore that when they are pregnant). Also, her trampling the snake below her feet represents a certain verse in the book of Revelations. (The woman trampling the serpent). The stars in her cloak made her the woman clothed with the sun (Also from the book of Revelation). The flowers were a typical Marian association.

When one says the rosary, you actually create a garland of flowers that you offer to Our Lady. Among many other things…

I really want to go to Mexico someday to see that place where the apparitions took place.

But for now, I rest happily in this humbly compensating, highly intellectual and stimulating job in QC. Perhaps the first thing I will put in my work desk is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I will definitely need all the motherly reminder I can get to stay strong as I build my career as an assistant editor for engineering books.

Thank you so much God, for helping me find and get my dream job. =)