Sunday, July 13, 2008

By: Astig RIO

This is just a short reminiscence of the early days of Astig Pinoy and other Filipinos in Camp Taji, Iraq.

When I arrived in Camp Taji, I almost got the job of a bus driver. Good thing my driving license is still an official receipt since our LTO back home was “too fast” and “too systematic” in issuing my plastic card. (I have not got it until after 24 months huh!)

Good thing, Eleño informed me that Gary Pierce had just lost his rodman in Engineering Department due to medical reason. After a short interview about design engineering and CAD skills, I got the slot. My one and only batch mate, whom I flew with inside a Russian Cargo airplane from Dubai to Camp Anaconda in Balad, Servando “Vanny” Delen, who is also supposed to take that slot for bus driver, got the admin works in the warehouse instead.

Months later, I got the respect in my field, while Vanny (from Rosario, Batangas) smoothly sailed his ship in the high winds in his Tool Room Management.

Gary Pierce did not just left me without letting me learn about Land Surveying and by the time Byron Miller arrived, he just added much more techniques.

And allow me to mention a good friend, Mike Hester, a very fine gentle giant; he stands more than six-foot and a half. He taught me about engineering supervision and time and scheduling management.

And Khalás! (Arabic for “finish”), after few months these two gentlemen from Houston left the Engineering Department to me, on my own, until the end of my stint (I was alone, man!)

During those days, Filipinos were just occupying ordinary positions, no matter how you excel in your field, no amount of promotion was there waiting for you. All you could get is, “YOU ARE THE MAN!” Of course we could not buy anything from the PX using those appreciative words as payment. But anyway it is still an appreciation and really it is a food of the heart for us. It feels really good to hear that. (Ego-boosting ika nga!)

Now, Astig Pinoy excels not just in the mere sense but in actual change of seats and change of titles. They have got also salary increases too. (Ewan ko lang si Marlon Flores, my true friend, kung may increment na, Attention: Terry Tweedel). After Astig Eleño and Astig Joseph, (a.k.a bus lover) accepted as direct hired employees of KBR in Afghanistan, expats had started to express admirations to Filipinos’ skills and capabilities, although they really do admire Filipinos but not to the extent of getting them in their caravan. I heard those who used to be laborers are now enjoying their respective air-conditioned offices with full internet access. That is really pretty uncommon before when I was there. Once, I was asked by an expat, “Why most Filipinos are really educated?” I told him because we simply value it as the only way out from poverty.

All I can say now is that…prevailing wind of change has blown Astig Pinoy to better future. Hooah!

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