We had lunch at the Flores’ last Sunday. As any family gathering dictates, lunch, dinner or any feast is followed by conversation – to shred off the excess carbs we’ve been consuming during the meal as well as enjoy each other’s company. So, between the time that I was contemplating how I managed to eat all that Kilawin (it’s fish cooked in vinegar, no heating involved) despite my general distate for fish and vinegar dish combinations, the conversation shifted from the adults reminiscing their college days to the importance of having exceptional social skills.
At that moment, I was almost certain that the turn of conversation topic was a coincidence. You see, during breakfast, Ma was saying how she was excited about having lunch at the Flores’ and dinner at the Luz’s and that she was set on spending Sunday ‘socializing.’ Then she went on saying that it would be good for my brother and I to practice our social skills. Well, I wasn’t complaining – anything to get me out of the house for a while after spending the entire week cooped up and tinkering with VB and DAO.
But then, I watched too many episodes of Castle the past week and in Richard Castle’s words, ‘There is no such thing as coincidence.’ Anyway, when I finally snapped back into reality, Tito Nelson was saying that we, kids, should practice our communication skills – that in work, what sets an individual apart is not the intelligence or the grades but on how well he communicates with his co-workers. And then he jumps into telling us that successful people become successful because they have a sense of humour. Well, I’d like to think that having a sense of humour will be great to get a crowd or even ill-mannered co-workers to listen to you and that was what Tito was leaning toward but he didn’t continue much because he jumped onto the next story he remembered.
After a few more laughs, the conversation became quite serious again when the topic was about worker-efficiency and how drive was affected by compensation and benefits. I remember fragments of the conversation but the gist is still fresh. Apparently, from what the adults have experienced, when benefits are scarce and taxes are incredibly high, people tend to slack off probably to match their effort with what they earn – more so when they aren’t frequently evaluated. The conversation drifted off to the case of public school teachers who made the effort of studying hard during college to graduate and pass the teachers board and is then faced with the task of teaching a class of 90 (if not more) with such little compensation. In the long run, these teachers tend to clock in, sell ice candy to the students and then clock out just in time to go home for dinner.
After which, Tito Nelson pointed out the huge difference in character if said board-passing teacher taught in a public school. Given the better (but sometimes still not enough) salary and benefits, plus the frequent evaluations (to maintain the institution’s standards) these teachers perform what is expected of them and more.
I wasn’t expecting that the events that transpired earlier that day would be fitting during dinner. Yes, well I was in the middle of enjoying my share of carbonara, fried chicken and fish when everybody was deep in conversation about the elections the next day. As much as I would love to relay every single praise and comment of every senatorial candidate because I had to laugh more than a few times to that, I’d be straying from my topic.
So one of my cousins was talking about how one of the senatorial candidates, during a debate, said that the reason why the education system in the Philippines is bad is because the Teachers don’t care. I’ll assume that this candidate was pertaining to the public school system. Anyway, so my cousin goes on about how the statement made her blood boil and how the education system (not limited to the public) has its absurd flaws – like this well-known university that requires its foreign (US) students to take the TOEFL. Or some other institution that require its employees of Literature and Language graduates to take the TOEFL. The situation was laughable but unlike what happened next.
Dear cousin was caught in her rant of the absurdity of the situation that she misused a word. I was concerned with my food so I let it slide. Well, I thought everybody was going to make it slide but her dad didn’t. Tito just had to point it out and poke fun. Well, I thought the entire situation was funny – the irony of it all. But seeing the reaction of my cousin, silently fuming, I became nervous for the next half-minute. I was expecting that a father-daughter fight would ensue. If you were there, you would think too. Everybody practically froze and became quiet. I was holding my breath. And the awkward silence became more awkward.
Thankfully, Tito caught on and changed the subject. I almost heard myself exhale. But if it were me in my cousin’s place, I would have laughed at the situation seeing that the irony of the conversation was rubbing off on my grammar. We still had cake after. And a doggy bag of leftovers. The night ended well and I took my laughing at the car on the way home. At this time, I didn’t believe that the conversation topics came up on coincidence. It somehow felt planned or the world just wanted me to feel the importance of having good social skills and a better sense of humour. Personally, I’d pick the latter because it just had to make that awkward silence during dinner a screaming example.