Life and Culture

BPO Workers are the New OFWs

They live in the Philippines, but they follow their clients’ timezone.

They generally earn more compared to their counterparts in local companies.

I need to ask: If you can get a job with relatively the same salary as your night shift one, would you still work on night shift and live abnormally?

(If you can get a job with relatively the same salary as the one you have abroad, would you still work abroad and be separated from your family?)

While we can always rationalize working on night shift, like being able to avoid the harsh Philippine sun, it’s just NOT normal. It is unhealthy and after six years you develop all sorts of nasty complications like migraine and high blood pressure regardless of how well you take care of yourself (again generally speaking).

I am reminded of the Switchfoot song “This is Your Life”

Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes
This is your life and today is all you’ve got now
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes

This is your life, are you who you want to be
This is your life, are you who you want to be
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose

This is OUR life, OUR society, OUR culture, OUR generation. I know there was also a time when the citizens of countries which are wealthy now had to compromise to survive. It was a matter of trying to get a job to earn. But after their hardships, their children no longer have to compromise. It was no longer about getting a job, but about getting a job they liked.

Yet, talking to people I work with, some are finishing their Master’s degrees in Arts and plan to quit the BPO industry to teach after graduating. Some are in law school and also plan to quit after. Some are saving up to start a business.

I strive to be able to do what I love and not compromise because I have to pay the bills. I strive to allow my children to do whatever they love and not tell them “‘Wag na ‘yan. Hindi natin kaya magbayad ng lessons.” (Don’t do that. We can’t pay for the lessons.)

The problem with focusing on survival – getting jobs based on what pays the most – is you don’t get to know and develop people’s real talents. Who knows that the ordinary, non-performing BPO worker could have been the next great Filipino ballerina if her parents spent on her ballet lessons instead of telling her “‘Wag na ‘yan.” Or the bored Team Lead could be the next great Filipino Statesman. Or the frustrated boss’ assistant could be the next great Filpino writer.  

So I struggle because I have to. Still, I am able to say that I will not easily lose hope and give in to being the typical BPO worker who is satisfied with branded clothes and trips to Singapore and new cars and condo units in exchange for the abnormalcy of the corporate routine.

There is a different kind of happiness from being able to do what you love compared to just resigning yourself to what life’s circumstances have given you even if you try to make the most of it.

I am able to say that there is an end to all this because my life is not without purpose and I am struggling to get somewhere.

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2 thoughts on “BPO Workers are the New OFWs

  1. I want to be the next great Filipino writer. I write everyday from 1pm until I have to get ready for my 7pm shift. I try to sneak in some writing at work if I don’t have a lot to do. I wrote a novel on Filipino society and am sending it out to publishers. I’m sending an entry – short story – to Palanca. My current project is 11 short stories about the BPO generation. So far my readers say I’ve got the talent. Still, I have to exert effort and I have to remind myself that even if I end up trying forever, that’s better than living with regret.

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