By Jagel Mae S. Escandor, R5 - Article
There are a thousand reasons why I did not want to join the government service when I was younger, but along the way, I found one reason that made me choose to stay.
I grew up watching or reading the news and I found it disgusting to know the alleged corruption scandals that hound some government agencies and their officials over the years. As I was a student then, I believed what I saw and heard, but failed to look beyond my sight or listen before I hear. I even equated the word “government” to corruption and vowed never to enter its circle.
After graduating from my undergraduate course, I took up Bachelor of Laws in order to fulfil my initial dream of becoming a lawyer. From there I realized that life is a four-way view and not everything that I see, read or hear summarizes the whole truth.
In order to go on with law school, I badly needed to find a job. It was timely that an offer came to me and some fateful twist happened when I landed on a work I never even dared to enter into. But since finding employment was hard, I applied for a position and got hired as an executive assistant for a special project of a government office.
That was the time when irony slapped my face and opened my eyes to a wider understanding of how government institutions work. I also learned that while there were bad people lurking inside its circle, there are still many other good officials and employees left pushing for common good. Above all, clienteles are still maintaining high hopes in the government that works for genuine service.
First job in the government circle
I served as an executive assistant for the operations manager of Bicol River Basin Project Management Office in 2010 which was then under the Office of the President.
My stay in my first job in the government was very limited since I entered four months prior to the next presidential election. When President Benigno S. Aquino III took over as the President of the Philippine Republic, he mandated the reorganization of government agencies and later moved for the dissolution of our office.
With that limited time, I still managed to have a glimpse of how the government works. I realized that no matter how good a government project is, some people are always sceptical or find fault over every output that is presented. As to the words of my former employer, government employees are expected to do better than their best because they are being paid with people’s taxes.
Service is sweeter the second time around
When my first employment ended, I applied and got hired as Research Assistant B for the National Irrigation Administration - Camarines Sur Irrigation Management Office (NIA-CSIMO) in November 2010.
This time, I was tasked not to do office assignments. I felt overwhelmed knowing that I would do field works. But beyond the excitement, the tasks attached to the position I accepted contributed greatly to sudden change of heart. This is where I learned to see things through other people’s lens and be appreciative for the things that I already have.
Knowing the farmers
Institutional development work is vital to the implementation of NIA projects since it deals with organizing the farmers and strengthening the organized Irrigators Associations (IA).
To be able to carry out the said tasks and monitor the sustainable effects of NIA’s efforts, we need to integrate with the farmers, attend IA board meetings and assist them in accomplishing their responsibilities stipulated in the memorandum of agreement with the agency, like securing SEC registration/reportorial requirements, negotiating the right-of-way, monitoring the progress of farming activities and other related matters.
Dealing with them almost every day, I learned deeper facts about them that made me respect them even more.
The Farmers’ plights and their optimism
It is ironic that the farmers as food producers, if not all, remained below the poverty line. As we eat their produce, some peasant families in far-flung places struggle to find food for dinner. As they know how it felt like having nothing, they perfectly know the importance of giving. Their eyes seemed tired of crying for the lands that are still not theirs that they chose to give light mood in resolving water conflicts.
They almost treated the irrigation systems as their key to survive that they still manage to pay amortization or Irrigation Service Fee (ISF) even after the strongest of typhoons hit their areas or the most inevitable pests pestered their crops.
Being a government employee paid enough to assist the farmers; I felt remorse whenever I remember belittling government service before.
Staying for good
More than the news about dishonesty and other irregularities, many other great stories inside the government circle are waiting to be told. Not everyone is involved in corruption; some are just doing their job and they are doing them well. Some are working beyond the work hours without pay and risking their lives in order to deliver the services needed in the community.
If not for NIA, I would not have been able to realize the government’s vital accomplishments that some people or news organizations fail to look into.
The areas developed by the agency for irrigation are the same hectares of lands that the farmers love like their own children. With participatory approach of project implementation, it planted concrete trust and confidence in farmers organizations that the government is doing its best for their bright future.
If given the chance, I would choose to stay with NIA and the farmers over and over again.
Note: The author had resigned from NIA for lack of a permanent position. She’s now working with BFAR Bicol. She wrote this article during a training for NIA PRO/Information Officers in Puerto Galera in 2015.