By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
In the time of “walang forever”, staying in the same company or line of work for more than 5 years is already a prize.
It may be due to the scarcity of tenured posts, the allure of shifting workplaces for better offers or simply the impatience often ascribed to today’s Millennials.
Whatever the reason, loyalty to a job or an organization these days remains the unheeded advice from the older generation. Many of them grew up seeing ascent in the corporate ladder as the main evidence of success.
But there are professions like journalism and media whose hold on their practitioners is for more than bread and butter. And there are companies whose opportunities can span a spectrum of careers one could explore without leaving their backyard.
Getting to last long in these places is encouraged and in some, rewarded.
At ABS-CBN, they call it the “Kapamilya Awards”, a gala to recognize employees who reached 5-year milestones in their service with the company. They are treated to dinner, performances by ABS-CBN artists and receive a personalized token along with a moment with the executives.
It’s a night deep with meaning for the Kapamilyas being honored. But the meaning has different shades–depending on how long they’ve been “in the service”.
It took Charo Santos-Concio, then ABS-CBN’s President and CEO, to put these and the emotions attached into words when she spoke at the Kapamilya Awards in August 2015.
Whether 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 years “old”, what do those milestones mean?
Ms Charo started with the young–the fresh graduates who enter ABS-CBN’s gates driven by dreams.
“Baka pangarap na makatapak sa loob ng isang kompanya na ating hinahangaan. Gusto nating maging bahagi ng mundong dating napapanood lang natin sa TV o sa sinehan.
“Nariyan na rin ang pangarap na magamit ang pinag-aralan at makaangat, makapag-abot sa magulang, makapagpaaral ng kapatid, o makaipon. Nariyan na rin ang pangarap na gumaling, na matuto, at balang araw, mapromote at mamuno.”
(“Maybe it’s the dream of stepping into a much-admired company. We want to be part of a world we’ve only seen on TV or in the movies.
“There’s also the dream of using what we’ve learned and get ahead in life, give back to a parent, put a sibling through school or save up. There’s also the dream to become better, to learn and one day, be promoted and lead.”)
For them, she says, the recognition of reaching the 5 year mark is a “validation for a job well done.”
But the years that pile on will mature people and change their priorities, Ms Charo said. The dreams become tangible: a car, a house, or a family of one’s own. Along with a few first triumphs, the challenges become tougher.
“No life in ABS-CBN is complete without risks and failures, trials, crises, painful lessons.
“Darating at darating ang panahon na masasaktan ka, and you will spend time in the dark night of your soul. At dito, maitatanong mo sa iyong sarili, ‘Sino ba ako?’ ‘Ano ba ang mahalaga para sa akin?’ ‘Ano ba ang gusto kong marating sa buhay ko?’”
(“The time will surely come when you will get hurt and you will spend time in the dark night of your soul. These are the times you will get to ask yourself, ‘Who am I? What do I value?’ ‘What do I want to achieve in life?’”)
While some confronted with these questions will pass on blame–be it to other people, the budget, the audience research, the company or even fate—finding the answer requires courage and determination.
“All of us in big and small ways have been called to heroism. Life in ABS-CBN calls for a fair amount of sacrifice. Nobody promises us an easy life. We could not have succeeded if not for the risks and the failures. We will not be where we are now if not for the sacrifices we all gave to our community.”
And the fight, she said, is not without finding comrades in one’s team—and finding one’s heart.
“Napamahal na sila sa inyo. Ilang beses na nila kayong sinalo, ilang beses niyo na rin silang sinalo. Saan ka pa hahanap ng ganitong klaseng pagsasamahan? Nandito ang ikalawang pamilya mo. At saka mo mare-realize na nandito rin pala ang puso mo.”
(“You’ve grown to love them. They’ve watched your back a number of times and you’ve done the same for them. Where will you find this kind of camaraderie? Your second family is here, and you will realize that your heart is also here.”)
Passing this milestone after 10 or so years symbolizes the fighters’ heroism, fighting spirit, sacrifice, willingness to break through, to win against all odds, sometimes to do even the impossible, Ms Charo said.
“And this is also a message–this is where you are meant to be. Everyone you love is here. What you love to do, you’re doing it here.”
Hopefully, the fighters would be inspired to charge ahead.
On a night deep with meaning, it was also a meaningful speech for Ms Charo, who at the end of that year would be passing on the reins of the Philippines’s largest multimedia company.
She moved on to the last and smallest group of service awardees that night—the veterans like her–and could not help but also reflect on her own 28 years in ABS-CBN.
Soon, her voice broke, the pauses came and the tears flowed, punctuated with applause from her listeners.
“Magbabalik-tingin din kayo tulad ko at itatanong ninyo sa sarili niyo, ‘Nagdaan na ba ang lahat ng mga taon?’ Napakalaking parte pala ng buhay ko, binigay ko sa ABS-CBN. (pause) Naitawid ko pala.’”
(“Like me, you would look back and ask yourselves: ‘Did all those years pass? I’ve given a very big part of my life to ABS-CBN. [pause] I was able to make it.”)
“And I ask myself, did I really deserve all the breaks (pause) that I got? Or is it the work of someone bigger than me?”
Most, if not all of these veterans were also pioneers at ABS-CBN like Ms Charo. They started units that expanded and seeded concepts that blazed trails in the industry.
“The beautiful thing is that, we look back not only with pride but with a deep sense of humility.
“We do not see our successes as our personal achievements, but as the product of joining hands of the whole community. We could not have done it alone. We need one another all those years. We needed grace, and we needed God, however we may perceive him to be.”
The veterans have also made peace with the failures, pains and regrets of their past, she said. To them, it was all part of the big story.
“And then we realize, ang buong buhay pala natin, all along ay isang call to service.
(And then we realize our whole lives all along were after all a call to service.)
“We have been called to serve the Filipinos. And 15, or 20, or 25 years ago, we said yes. We made a choice. We invested our hearts, minds and spirits. In our own small and big ways, we served them, and we served them well.”
They’ve now reached the stage where they want to pay forward and ensure “future generations will be in a better place because of us,” she said.
To her, it is a time to teach those who would continue what they’ve started, to give back for the gratitude of all those years spent in service.
“Ang parangal na ito ay isang malaking pasasalamat, hindi lamang ng ABS-CBN kundi pasasalamat din ng bawat Pilipinong pinaglingkuran ninyo.
“Mahirap pong ipaliwanag… Walang salitang sapat. Walang trophy na sapat. Siguro po, maikukumpara ang gabing ito sa isang mainit na yakap, isang tapik sa balikat, o isang pagpisil ng kamay.
(“This recognition is a big ‘Thank you’, not just from ABS-CBN but from every Filipino you have served.
“It is difficult to explain… No words, no trophy would suffice. Maybe this night could be compared to a warm hug, a tap on the shoulder, or a firm grasp of the hand.”)
CSC, as she is called throughout the company, called ABS-CBN “a place of love” where she grew, learned and was loved.
Falling in love with one’s job or profession won’t be all warm and fuzzy. As trailblazers like her will confess, it will involve getting heartbroken, being confronted with your weaknesses, facing up to one’s responsibilities, and taking the trials and challenges for their lessons.
And through it all, one would see the people who have gone along for the ride, helped push ahead for one day longer until one can look back and say along with CSC:
“Yes, we did it, and it was not just a job well done. It was a life well-lived.”