Friday, September 4, 2015

LANGUAGE BARRIER: An Interviewer's Tale

I’ve been working as a contact center agent for an American company based in the Philippines for more than a year now. We specialize in survey and research. I have encountered different types of people, learned different views and opinions, and felt different kinds of emotions while doing surveys. Our job is described as “market research interviewer”. It might sound pro, but in the world of BPO, some find it as the worst, low-earning contact center job available in the Philippines today. Aside from that, you are more likely to get cursed at and threatened by rude people who don’t want to be bothered be this kind of calls. Your optimism can just fade away in a snap.

I never thought I’d be working as a call center agent because I used to hate the idea of calling people without their permission and that I also used to hate my accent before. I mean, I could speak English but it’s not my first language. I stutter at times and just eventually run out of words. I easily get intimidated by those who can speak it fluently. Nevertheless, I am here now and I love it, and this one's kind of different.

Having this kind of job requires a great patience. Some might think that it feels like hell talking to mean and ruthless people  an incremental way of suicide. (LOL)

Well, I beg to disagree. What others don’t realize about being a market research interviewer is its essence. One fundamental part of selling is marketing. You can’t just go and sell your products without targeting the people who need them. You need to start with marketing first. That’s where we come in. We do the research to identify which part of the community needs a certain service, what issue concerns them most, what type of people would most likely use a particular product, and what our clients can offer. We serve as the bridge to a better communication and understanding between our respondents (customer) and our clients. From there, data are gathered and analyzed to determine the problems and come up with a feasible course of action.

There was this one time when I got assigned to a certain project that surveys subscribers of some mobile networks in the States. I got to interview a Hispanic customer who tried her best to answer my questions in English, for me to find out that she was having a hard time talking on the phone because of a bad connection. This was what she said in verbatim, ”I can’t hear well. Line is choppy. I’m calling my family in Mexico. They can’t understand me. Please help me with this”. The fact that the survey could take more than 25 minutes, I tried to comfort her the best way I could. Not to the extent that I would break the rules, but just enough to make her feel that her concern was being taken care of. After all, it was all I could do to repay her kindness and patience in taking a lengthy survey. It somehow gave me a purpose there.

Another instance was when I talked with an elderly man for a survey that concerns the seniors and retirees. I was so surprised that despite his age he doesn’t have a health insurance, which is very important for old people especially those who are living alone in a country like America. I felt bad for him. He also said that his pension was not enough for his daily needs, and that he even gets his food from food stamp (a small document that is given by the American government to poor people and that can be used to buy food). That poor man has to live alone after his wife died and that his kids already have their own family. My tears fell down unnoticeably. I couldn’t contain my emotions after hearing that from him. I wish I could do something. But at least that time, he had someone to share his grief with.

The survey I consider the best was when I was assigned to a project that talked about the U.S’ economic sanction against Iran. I got the chance to interview a native Iranian who grew up in Iran and migrated to the United States to live "the American dream". The man was very smart and opinionated. He turned a supposed 9-minute survey into more than a 30-minute, almost-a-TV-show interview. The topic included an alleged discrimination among the Iranian community in the United States; a very sensitive topic that followed after the Iranian government announced that they're developing a nuclear program. The world quivered because of its possible threat to other countries. The U.S, particularly, condemned this action of the Iranian government as they might use it to create nuclear weapons to support terrorism; a fear that grew after receiving a series of threat from ISIS (a terrorist group in the Middle East). To my amazement, this guy seemed to be more than just a terrorist to me. He was kind, accommodating, and patient. He told me about his feelings toward their government. He said that the people of Iran don’t want any of these plans. He also added that what is wrong with their country is their government itself. He explained a lot of things that the ordinary people could not imagine by just listening to the news and what the media usually reports about. “If you just get to know them, Iranians are one of the friendliest people in the world,” he said. I was shocked when he said that he never felt discriminated by the Americans eversince he migrated to the States, nor did it happen to his close friends and relatives, not even after Iran’s nuclear program issue.

During that interview, I came to realize and this has been my perception since I was a child, being a Moro myself, that these people are not terrorists but victims of stereotyping. That whatever those violent extremists do to other people, the Middle Easterns, in general, don’t deserve to be treated as one. The real terrorists are those stereotypes who feed on the innocent people’s fear of discrimination because of cultural and racial differences. People who think that if a certain type of person hurts another, his group or his kind is as terrible as him – people who live by the concept of generalization. This man who willingly took the survey with me is more than just the bad person other people believed him to be. He was more humane, more just, and more real compared to any other words we use to describe a terrorist. One thing I also noticed when interviewing Iranians is that all of them are well-educated. Most of them are post-graduates and some are degree holders. Quite impressive for a terrorist, isn’t it?

I have experienced a lot of rejection and most of them are rude ones. Once, I reached a guy who was like a police investigator. He interrogated me after I delivered my introduction. He asked for my social security number. Being an interviewer, we are prohibited from giving such information. Even if I wanted to, I just couldn’t because I honestly don’t have one! :D He will never find me there for I am not an American citizen. I don’t even memorize my own Philippine Social Security number. LOL! I also encountered an irate old man who said that he was tracking my IP and he’s gonna hunt me down. It actually scared me. I was afraid that he might look up for my “phone name” or alias and that he would find a person in the U.S. with the same name I am using. Imagine what kind of disaster that could be!

Every day we encounter different types of language barriers and I must say, this isn't the problem at all. Language is a tool to communicate, not a measure of knowledge or a limit.  Our main problem is misinterpretation... of one's intention, of a certain situation, and of a simple word or action. A little misunderstanding can lead to more complications when a statement, information, feeling, or opinion gets corrupted or relayed inaccurately. A simple altercation can become physical or worse, a war between families, friends or countries. Everyone has a right to be heard and every story has two sides. So, better hear both before concluding. Right?

Anyway, that's pretty much my experience as a market research interviewer. Thanks for dropping by! :-*

DISCLAIMER: The name of the company or people included in this post were not mentioned for privacy concerns. In case of revelation of the company’s identity, the views and opinions expressed in this writing do not reflect those of the company, its employees or its management. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My 10-Point Opinion About the Vhong Navarro vs Deniece Cornejo Case

Speculations about the story of Vhong Navarro having been beaten in a condo unit in Forbeswood Heights, Taguig are now flooding the social media. People are showing their support to the actor-TV host, who allegedly attempted to rape the 22-year old model-stylist, Deniece Milinette Cornejo. The said accusation happened on the night of January 22, 2014, in the girl’s own residence.

After reading some articles and having watched the news, questions circulated the Internet asking who’s telling the truth and not. Four days after the incident, Vhong had an interview on Buzz ng Bayan, a local showbiz-oriented show. Everyone saw the host’s brutally damaged face, and how he was unmercifully tortured by Deniece’s friends. He shared what happened that night in detail, starting from his first meeting with Deniece at the same condominium unit. A day after Vhong’s interview Deniece and Cedric Lee (one of the perpetrators) called a news reporter for an exclusive interview to tell their side of the story. Then another report from the police precinct (where they filed a blotter against the host) came out, telling what they witnessed when Navarro and Deniece’s company arrived the precinct.

I then came up with my own overview or let’s say my “educated analysis” based on the versions told by both parties and the police. A report from a security guard in Forbeswood Heights verified that Deniece did inform them of expected visitors that night, including Vhong Navarro. This then led me to my first observation.

1.         Deniece said in their interview that she told Vhong in a text message that she’s not available on the said night, because she had a prior commitment with her friends. 
-  So why did she include Vhong Navarro in her list of guests if she wouldn’t be able to entertain him? Why did she give a list of these “expected” guests??

2.        While I was listening to Cedric’s statement there was a missing piece in his story that I wanted to hear. He said when they came, they saw a naked man on top of Deniece, and that she was kicking that man. When they came in the man immediately fixed himself, trying to get dressed. Then they recognized it was Vhong Navarro.
-  If I was the rapist, I would make sure no one can come in and witness my crime. So Vhong and Deniece just left the door unlocked? Cedric did not even mention HOW THEY WERE ABLE TO GO INSIDE the condo unit.

3.        If you were the rape “victim,” wouldn't you ask for justice by filing a case against your rapist?? Why would you settle for a negotiation and for a certain amount? What’s the purpose of police blotter? Why file it in a precinct away from the crime scene if you really want the truth to come out?

4.        How could a police officer free a suspect of such heinous crime? Is torturing the accused part of a citizen’s arrest? One against six?? Or unless there was a conspiracy inside that precinct, was there?

5.        Cedric said Vhong became violent that’s why they used some force to control him.
-   Was he drunk? Or under the influence of drugs? They never mentioned it, nor did the police. And if he did become uncontrollable, there were SIX of them, for God’s sake!!! SIX MEN WERE MORE THAN ENOUGH TO CONTROL HIM!

6.        The police who stated what happened in the precinct said, "Pagkakataon na po sana naming ma-solo si Vhong para makausap, kaso sinamahan siya nung isang lalakeng matangkad. Hindi ko nga alam bat sumama pa siya, tinabihan nya si Vhong. Tapos nung hinatid na namin siya sa sasakyan nya nandun parin yung lalake. Hinabol pa nga namin siya para kunan ng statement, kaso sabi nya, wag na po, alang-alang nalang sa pamilya ko."
-  This just means these guys were afraid that Vhong might tell the real story, so they accompanied the police officers in getting him to his car. And Vhong did not give his statement because he was thinking of his family’s safety.

7.        FACT: Cedric already committed the same crime in 2007, where he and his business colleagues tortured their business partner-triathlete, David Bunevacz in front of his wife. It is not impossible if he’d do the same crime or if he had done it to more people (but unreported ones) before. We wouldn't know until they also blow their own whistles out.

8.       To Deniece: Is that a rape victim’s face after the incident? No signs of trauma at all? No honest tears, no fears, NOTHING??? -_-

9.        To Cedric: Why couldn't he look straight into Jay Ruiz’s eyes during the interview? Was he afraid he might be caught lying through his deceiving eyes?

10.   Based on scientific analysis, when a person is trying to "remember" something and is looking down, they’re probably lying. And if a person is looking up trying to remember something, it means they’re really trying to remember facts. Compare the two interviews.

Now the verdict is in the evidences’ hands.  The CCTV footage of the condo unit is definitely the most sensitive evidence of this case. Vhong’s version was more detailed and in sequence, while the other party said such things that can be invented anytime. In the end, justice will be served and THE TRUTH WILL PREVAIL.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Cry For Peace In Zamboanga City

The crisis in Zamboanga must stop as soon as possible. 

I just don't get the government's action towards it. Why are they making this longer than what they should? I've heard on the news that the MNLF faction went there to raise their flag or have a campaign rally for whatever they are fighting for, and that the local government didn't let them to. Our main concern here is the innocent people who are now suffering from this situation. It's not just about the fight between the military and the rebels or who's more powerful than who. It's about the people who are being affected by this crisis. Why don't they just let them go peacefully and have a peace talk after? I don't think they could have a successful talk during the course of this fight. Why don't they just put their guns down for a common cause? 

I understand that the government needs to protect the city, but I don't think they are also protecting the people with what they're doing. Hunger and fear are not just the things that could kill them, but also those flying bullets that have been haunting the place and the minds of the innocents for five days now. Houses were burned; people got sick. The local government even admitted they couldn't feed all the evacuees. Who are the most affected by this violence? It's not the two parties, we all know that. 

Who are the ones with small dreams, hoping to fulfill them when they grow up? It's the children. Kids who want to go to school and learn, for it is what they believe could help their family in the future. Kids that are now living in fears. Some of them even think it's like the usual thing that happens in movies. Adding battalions of allies is not the solution to this, nor loading more guns and weapons for defense. The government must know what it is, and I want to believe they do. Do they think they could save those hostages if the situation gets to a higher level? Does having bigger force give them the assurance to save those people? Of course, the rebels are threatened that's why they also need to add a massive defense system. I don't speak for them. I speak for what I am seeing. After all, the fight isn't just about them. It's about the whole country itself. It's about PEACE and ORDER. 

Well, I just hope and pray for this terrible event to end the soonest possible time. It's not helping our nation, the people in Zamboanga, and the people involved in this violence. It's tearing everyone's heart. Please pray for peace. 

"What about all the peace
That you pledged your only son..."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I still remember how I got into this world; a world that I didn't really know until the third month of exploring. 

The Sleeping Dinosaur, Mati, Davao Oriental
It was not my intention to find a job at that time 'coz I was still working for a local company in the country. I was browsing Facebook when a message popped out of the window saying that someone’s looking for an article writer. Out of curiosity and excitement, I immediately accepted the invitation and prepared a little for the interview. That was the time I first encountered JMR. She was the team’s Team Leader when I applied for social media content post writing. She then connected me to ME, the Post Production manager. I found her strong and strict based from her replies and the way she asked me questions about myself. Five minutes and it felt like 2 hours talking to her on Skype. Whew! My hands were sweating and freezing at the same time because of nervousness. The thing that broke the ice was when she asked me about my experience in sales and marketing. “So I assume you are an expert in that field,” she said and I replied; “Well as far as my confidence is concerned, I would say, yes.” I didn't expect her to respond like we’re having fun but she said, “That made my day, thank you.” Whew again, and I smiled. 

After the interview, I was redirected to JMR for a brief introduction and orientation about my job. And just after the short briefing, I started writing using the samples she gave me as my guide. I was introduced to my team and found good friends; MJE, NRD, SST, RC, and JMR herself. RC was a bit harsh at first with her feedbacks about my work and gave me some pointers to improve. Few days later, I slowly fell in love with the team and the BIGGER team, and found my labs, LC. I found a FAMILY. 

Just a month after I got hired, a great news came. The bosses are coming to meet us. WHOA!! So since the announcement, I practiced talking to myself in English, so I will be prepared if they talk to me or ask me something. That’s what’s supposed to happen, right? But the expected breath-taking scene was reversed. The Boss, DLR or also known as MBD was not mean like Simon Cowell; opposite from what I thought he was. When he opened his arms for us, we welcomed him wholeheartedly and found a TRUE friend in him. That was like “Unity of Two Species.” BOOM!! So, a new friendship was born. DLR, JA, NJDR, RP, GPC, MLC, JMR, NRD, LMS, AL, PMT, KT – The Originals. LOL. Having these people gave me more reasons to continue walking through my journey in the company. I never had dull moments with them. Everyone was always happy with the others’ company. We share hunger, disappointments, and dismay, which all turn into laughter every time we chat. We were invincible.

But the small family started to grow bigger and bigger as the demand got higher and higher; an inevitable phase of our life as a FAMILY. Sometimes we’re on a calm ocean, sometimes we were shaken by huge waves. That is how a wheel works. When hurricane K hit the home, it was already on intensity 4 where we had to put up a task force. We were unified by one goal, that was to survive and kick the hurricane K’s ass off of his eye wall. That’s when I found the other MM. (The rest is history.)

Of course, we surpassed the challenge brought by HK, and we rejoiced for the win. And that’s how the world began to turn heavier. People were thirsty of attention and power that changed the atmosphere to something I’ve always disliked. The healthy home of the family I’ve known has turned into a POLITICAL BATTLEFIELD. Envy, greediness, hypocrisy, and pride took over love and unity. 

I was lonely. I felt the pressure that everyone else also felt. Stress, depression, and frustration outgrew my happy, hopeful, and cheerful heart. I felt unsecured. Even with the threats from above, I strived so hard to protect my family members; the family that DLR created. I became their guardian. Months have passed and I was able to survive because of my eagerness to stay and make my small family a little bigger. I did. I tried. I was willing to fight for them, and I really did. I just couldn’t help but admit to myself that there will always be people who’ll try to pull you down, or climb up at the expense of others. I know. I have encountered them. I certainly know them. I was confused with things that I didn’t know; things that were sealed from us. :x 

I did not write this “short story” to rant or express negative feelings. I would like to say that we all have DREAMS. We all want to be somebody; someone that we wanted to be since World War 1. We all wish to be on a pedestal where everyone would look up to us. But if we really want to be on that position, we also need to think of others. Our dreams are connected, so do our lives. We do not only breathe for our own circulatory system to work. We work and live for our family, for the people around us, for our colleagues, for our teammates, for our adopted FAMILY, and for ourselves. We need to find our purpose in life and live with it. When we think of going up but someone has to fall down first; isn't that unfair or selfish or envious? Let’s say you are now up there, glorifying yourself for making it. Is that your purpose? Do you even call that a PURPOSE?

Now you have a team. You have your own small family. If that is your biological family, will you try to dominate using dirty plans? Will you kill your brother for your own PURPOSE? For your family to grow, you need to help them. If you know something that they don’t, tell them. Tell them as long as it’s not going to compromise your own work. Help them understand instead of doing it by yourself (so you’ll be the one to get the reward). Say what you think and start a conversation to fix things together. Laugh with them. Break the ice. Throw a joke even if it’s a thumb down. Make them feel trusted as you want them to trust you. Do things together so you’ll rise together. Recognize your neighbor’s achievement, be happy for them. Do not envy. Work hard to get what you deserve.

A friend told me this when I decided to leave; “Happiness is a choice.” Yes, it is. That’s why I chose to find my happiness in another way, in a different world. I did not leave to escape. I did it to give myself a time to find what I might have ignored. I chose to go to see things away from the pressure, and within a short period of time, I learned to understand. Well at least, maybe in my own understanding and in my own perception of “what is happening”. 

In the end, my decision matters and I know it makes a BIG SENSE. 

“There are some things success is not. It's not fame. It's not money or power. Success is waking up in the morning so excited about what you have to do that you literally fly out the door. It's getting to work with people you love. Success is connecting with the world and making people feel. It's finding a way to bind together who have nothing in common but a dream. It's falling asleep at night knowing you did the best job you could. Success is joy and freedom and friendship. And success is love.”

-Jenny Garrison, FAME (2009)

(It's Gonna Make Sense: Michael Learns to Rock)

Note: I chose to use initials of the people included in this post for their privacy.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Religious Debates?

Debates about religion occur because people of different religions and beliefs claim theirs to be right and forget to respect others'.
People have differences.

Level of Understanding.

The only thing we could do is to RESPECT each other's differences to help this world turn around lighter. What's the point of arguing about things you can't even prove with yourself? Unless you were present in that day that those scriptures first existed, you can never say that the one you are following is the rightest of all. The only thing that really matters is we believe in the existence of the Creator, Almighty and that He is the beginning and the end. If we just look around and notice, things become worse because of different opinions that push a simple issue to its limit. What's the tendency? Conversation turns into argument, then turns into a fight.

See? This is what happens if we keep on justifying things we are not even sure of.
Imagine a world that has no race or religion. Everyone embraces diversity. I think it would be a promising place to live.

So, please do the keyword to a better world.

R E S P E C T :)

PRE-MARITAL SEX: Commitment or Pleasure?

Start thinking NOW!! You seem to enjoy and forget the fact that it's a mortal SIN. What for??? To explore and try some adventures? Yes, it could be fun and as health practitioners say, "Sex is the best exercise."

But what's the point of doing that when you don't have any commitment?

It's so annoying when people say, "I did it because I love him," or "It's to show how much I love her," to prove that they're willing to do anything for love.

Is that even LOVE??? Is that the right way of proving it? Invade someone's privacy, claiming they're yours and pushing them to a choice that's against their will?

Excuse me... To wait for the right time is the greatest proof of loving. Respect justifies the trust that is given to you by your partner, especially the girls. If they say YES, then go! But if it's NO, you have to deal with it. Don't waste your time arguing about it 'cause you'll just end up hurting each other or worse, BREAK UP. So, why let your sexual urges ruin your relationship? Is that even worth it? 


Girls, stand for what is RIGHT and not just for what YOU THINK is right. Keep that self-preservation 'til the right time comes.