Sunday, March 13, 2022

A Time to Remember

Last I spoke to Mai was December of last year 2021. I greeted her on Christmas day and she managed to respond two days later. She said she just had two surgeries due to complications with her intestine. Just before Christmas she was able to come home after being in the hospital for 35 days. She said she was feeling better although the wound still hurt. I really felt bad for her and could only imagine the struggle she had been going through at that point. My fervent wish, as I told her, was that she gets well soon and for her to take the rest that she needs to recover.

She had been going through a lot. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which was already in stage 4 near the end of 2020. The surgeries and chemotherapies that ensued left hear weak physically. But when I got to talk to her some months after that, she was unfazed. She had already decided to fight her sickness and was doing so in the most courageous way. Of course, I wasnt witness to all the anguish and sorrow she told me she couldnt help but feel on the first few months after the diagnosis. But by the time we met, its apparent she got over that phase.

Chemotherapy sessions werent fun but she made progress. I remember her telling me about tumor markers and how hers got so much better from what it used to be. And although she lost much of her hair, she felt good and could even do chores after her helper left. I recall being really grateful hearing these pieces of good news. She had no illusion that her illness will ever be cured but she was determined to keep it at bay for as long as possible.

Mai and I first met at work in Intel in Cavite. Although we went to the same university, we didnt really know each other until we were both working as Process and Equipment Engineers. She graduated from the University of the Philippines in Diliman ahead of me and was already in Intel for a year when I joined in 2003. Since that time, Ive known not only her great work ethic as a colleague but also her sincerity and loyalty as a friend. We were both just starting a career that time. I was lucky enough to be in the same group doing the same Die Attach module as her.

By the time Intel closed its operations in Cavite in 2009, she had already left to work in Singapore. Ive recently reread our email exchanges around that time. It was mostly about how our lives had changed. She was starting out anew in a foreign country together with her husband Chie. And I was then about to have a daughter but soon to lose a job. We clearly felt the challenges were ahead of us but she seemed to be undaunted and felt for sure that better days were coming.

That was one of the traits I admired about her. We may talk and complain about the difficulties but she had no qualms about doing the work to take on the challenges that came her way.

When I finally moved to Singapore at the end of 2016, Mai had already switched her career from engineering to financial services. Although she was a good engineer, she was even better as a financial advisor. From our discussions, I could immediately sense her passion to this new line of work. She was excellent not only with her technical knowledge but more so with her empathy to her clients. She was not the usual insurance agent. She went out of her way to ensure her best effort and care were extended to all clients, even the difficult ones.

After her cancer diagnosis, she offered many of her clients (which already included me) a newly released insurance plan that covers cancer. This new product unfortunately didnt cover her case due to a 90-day grace period. So, she personally experienced having to spend hard-earned money on critical illness expenses. And she just wanted better for everyone else she could reach out to. Even at a time of personal difficulty, she still exhibited extraordinary care and compassion to others.

She fought a good fight. No doubt about it. She was a passionate person. A great mother to her two kids. A loving wife to her husband. A thoughtful daughter to her mom and dad. A generous, responsible and kind person overall to her siblings, relatives, friends and co-workers. I was fortunate to have been her friend. Her passing was a great loss to me and to everyone who knew and loved her.

She will be missed greatly.

Goodbye, Mai!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

How the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed our Lives in Cavite

After more than a year of being away from home, I was able to finally make a short visit back to our hometown and be with my family in Silang, Cavite. If it were not for the Covid-19 pandemic, I would have been home five times in a year. But that became impossible because of all the travel restrictions that has been put in place by many countries around the world, including the Philippines (where I live) and Singapore (where I work). 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Taal Volcano Eruption 2020 Earthquake Trend

On 12 January 2020, Taal volcano started to erupt spewing ashes to the north of it's crater and nearby areas. It was one of the most frightening natural calamity that we've had to face in recent years. Granted the Philippines is a magnet for nature's wrath with more than a dozen typhoons coming our way annually. Earthquakes are not unusual. But a volcanic eruption, so close to home - 15 km away, is something we have not been ready for.
Phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano, 12 January 2020
Buszmail [CC BY-SA]

Monday, April 22, 2019

Hierarchy of Needs for an Engineer Working Overseas

I went on a two-week vacation last month by flying back to my home town in Silang, Cavite in the Philippines. It felt like a long-overdue rest for I have not been back home since the Christmas break. I try to be home every two months but my busy work schedule got in the way.

It was a very rejuvenating two weeks. I enjoyed not worrying about work and was just doing whatever I felt like doing. I was very happy to be with my family. I realized how I missed playing with my kids. They are slowly but surely growing up while I was away.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Filipino Foreign Worker in Singapore - Part 2

From where I sit, I see a Singaporean society that has matured. Gone are the unstable political conditions that characterized its post-independence years. There is no more struggle for survival that their founders had to contend with as described in Lee Kuan Yew’s autobiography “A Singapore Story”. Although the yearning for something better is still there, people are well-adapted. They have the resources to make a good life for themselves and their offsprings. And they seem to relish the fruits of their struggle from a generation ago. Their short history tells of a society that has emerged from difficult circumstances to the one they enjoy today. And for this, they are the envy of those countries that are trying to do the same but kept failing - including the Philippines.