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.

I left my work laptop in Singapore so that I didn’t have to care too much about what’s going on while I was away. Although I still got my phone that could have received work emails in case I really needed to address something urgent. In reality, my colleagues were very capable to handle the work. So I need not have worried. All were left in good hands.

As many of us are aware, vacation fulfills a basic need. It’s one of our physiological needs: rest.

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, was best known for his theory of the hierarchy of needs. Illustrated on the upper-left corner of this article is a pyramid structure of this hierarchy.

The idea for the hierarchy is that the base needs to be met before we can begin to successfully fulfill our higher order needs.

At the base of the pyramid are physiological and safety needs. We need to eat, sleep, rest and have comfort. We also need to feel secure and safe in the environment where we live and work. These basic needs, if not met, will distract us by demanding our attention when we try to advance up the hierarchy.

You may consider the first 2 levels as material or physical needs. This is in contrast to the succeeding levels which may be thought of as spiritual or emotional needs.

On the third level is “belongingness and love needs”. Each of us need to feel we are not only a part of a group, community or family, we also need to feel that we are loved by our friends or partners. Feelings of self-pity are often experienced by those who think no one loves or cares for them. And it’s a sign that this particular need is not being met.

Going up to level 4 is “Esteem needs”. For the good of our ego, we need to feel our lives are good for something. That it has not been a waste. That we have accomplished something noteworthy which we can be proud of. Some may not seek approbations but they know when they have done something good which makes them feel accomplished.

On the peak of the hierarchy, we find “self-actualization”. It is a term used when referring to becoming the best person anyone can be. When someone’s full potential is realized, that results to the best output or contribution from that person. We can say that he or she has experienced self-fulfilment.

Personal Experiences of These Needs

I am quite fortunate to be working for a good company and earning enough for may family’s needs. I can, therefore, claim that my physiological and security needs are both being met sufficiently. I work in a very safe place and my family, although not with me, is living comfortably.

The first two levels of the hierarchy (the basic needs) are, therefore, something that doesn’t occupy my thoughts constantly anymore. I can count them as needs that are mostly met.

I am also extremely lucky to belong to a loving family. I feel loved by my wife and kids, parents and siblings, friends and relatives. They are some of the nicest persons in the world, with few exceptions. I’m also very fortunate to have enough true friends that I can count on.

I belong to a community that is not as dysfunctional as others in the Philippines. Our barangay is not first-rate and there are indeed some unpleasant character but it’s pretty good overall.

Our church is also quite friendly and inclusive. It is composed of people who are not fundamentalists. Leadership team is trying it’s best while the members are very encouraging of each other. There a very few misunderstandings that we can consider serious conflicts. Harmonious and supportive fellowship that brings out good intentions for each other - that is indeed an excellent place to worship.

I work in a company with colleagues and superiors that are decent and hardworking. Although we strive for excellence and are competitive, no one forgets to maintain respect with each other in the spirit of collaboration and teamwork. We value each other and our egos are not huge.

I appreciate the value that I have been able to deliver for my company. I understand how I have been able to contribute to the bottomline. Although I am not indispensable, both my colleagues and managers value my efforts and results so much so that I have received promotions, recognition and awards.

Brooding is a pastime for introverts like myself. And I mostly think about how best to use my time so that I minimize future regret. It’s not easy to do because I have to weigh between short-term pleasure versus long-term gain.

When I am tired of too much work or when I am just being lazy, I feel it’s worth my time to indulge on fun activities whatever it may be. However, the feeling of lost time always comes back to haunt me.

Time is precious because we cannot get it back. Every second counts and should be used wisely while we still can.

I’m afraid of having too much regret when the time comes. So I always try to correct my rudder to follow what I thought should be the correct direction. But how to know the right direction is anybody’s guess. So good luck!

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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Filipino Foreign Worker in Singapore - Part 1

What is it like to live in Singapore? This was a question that has been answered for me since moving here the start of 2017 for work. I am now officially an Overseas Filipino Worker or OFW for short. Although I have only been here for a short time to give a really comprehensive assessment, I believe my short experience so far has given me a lot of insights as to what I can reasonably expect in the long run.


I have to say that it was not a totally new experience when I moved here. I was coming over every now and then for about two years prior to my permanent transfer. My trips were rather short since I was based in the Philippines and still reported to our Clark office. Still, several one-month trips had served as preludes to my eventual residency. I knew what I was getting into and I knew what Singapore had to offer.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Solve Difficult Problems Using a Simple Engineering Design Process

Being able to solve difficult problems or even easy ones for that matter is crucial to our survival. It’s beyond important. It’s what our lives depend on.

Imagine for instance the problem of food. When you are hungry or thirsty, you should know how to solve that problem. You should know that you have to eat or drink. If not, you will die.
But not all problems are as easy to solve. In fact, some are quite difficult to figure out. And when they are difficult to figure out, there is a tendency for us to try to ignore them or wish they would go away.

How do we raise our kids properly for example is not so easy to answer. Or how do we ease traffic in the city is a huge challenge for public officials.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Surgery for a First-Timer: Mastoidectomy and Tympanoplasty

March 5 of this year (2016), I underwent a medical operation called Mastoidectomy and Tympanoplasty at the De Lasalle University Medical Center (DLSUMC) in Dasmarinas, Cavite. It was the first surgery that I ever had. Prior to it, I was still able to claim that I have not been subjected to any medical operation in my life. It was a bragging right proving that I was as fit as can be. Not anymore.
Photo Credit: oldgreentree (Creative Commons)
Now, I can no longer say that. All I can brag about is having the courage to have gone through a major surgery that most are not willing to do out of fear. And who can blame these people, really. Going under the knife can be terrifying. If you think about it, not only will your body be opened up, they will do risky stuff inside of it that you can’t even begin imagine.