I’ve never owned a highlighter before, but now I have three–orange, green, and yellow–courtesy of my first ever post-college job. Jane*, who’s a superwoman of sorts, handed them to me as I settled on a maroon swivel chair I will be sitting on for the next few months. She also gave me two Post-it pads. They all fit easily into my hands–small, shiny bright things whose colors seemed to cheer me on as I signed my employment contract.
“Are you sure you want to take this?” Jane teased when she overheard me and my friend debating over whether I should sign the contract or not. I didn’t really have to take the job; it’s way too far from home and I had other offers. In the end, I didn’t know if I really believed in the job’s potential to let me “change the system,” or I just got blinded by the fat paycheck.
Jane was hired earlier but had been earning a lot less than what I would be paid. And she’s doing a lot more work. While she’s transcribing data about human trafficking victims, she’s also processing everyone’s time records and reimbursements, requesting help from the tech people, scheduling our boss’ meetings, and calling the boss’ driver to make sure the service car has not stalled at some high way or something.
Later in the day we visited a residential facility for vagrant women with mental disabilities in Mandaluyong. Everything was in disrepair, and our Canadian intern couldn’t believe the facility’s conditions. But Jane just was calm and collected. Even when the social worker told us that their annual budget is just a little over P 6 million–our four-man office gets half of that already, and we’re housed in a government compound equipped with a gym.
We capped the day at the 22nd floor of a posh hotel in Ortigas. Jane diligently jotted down minutes, eyes rapt with attention to our boss even as she hacked away at her steak. I wanted to say something like, how ironic it was that we were having wine to a pianist seemingly intent to lull us to a stupor, while we had just come from a dilapidated government facility where patients had to share everything, from laundry detergent to diapers. Jane looked like she had the same thing on her mind, but I wasn’t really sure. She didn’t say anything, except the things I was expecting her to say.
*not her real name