A PAIN worth a ”Piece-of-TEN” (A Reflection)

When my mother retired as government employee, I helped packing-up some of her things at their office and returned all issued equipment to the supply’s section. Same goes for all the documents and record paraphernalia she brought in at our house…

In the middle of wadding, one familiar bag caught my attention… a violet bag she always brings with, where all she puts some of her office documents and other battle gears and weapons (chuckles) like stapler, pencils and pens, scissors, correctional ink, key-chain, ruler, among others, I ask her if she’s still going to use some of those. So, she gave it to me… I brought them in my room to have those (still) useful particulars.

…as I was sorting out with a numbed shoulders and weary eyes, I notice a small white envelope. Inside were nine (9) paychecks each addressed to eight different personnel (my mom’s co- office mates). When I saw the amount of each, I must say, it’s a bit odd and shocking. Though at one point, I couldn’t hold myself but almost cracked into laughter because each paycheck indicates really very small figures. Though, all paychecks were dated year 1992 and 1993, it’s still quite too small considering they were all working in Government’s agency. However, what caught my attention was the stunning paycheck amounting 10.29 Php (less than a dollar)

Paycheck: 10.29 Philippine Peso

Image 1: A Paycheck indicating 10.29 Philippine Peso

At first, I didn’t tell my mother that I had those in me. Although should I still ask her about those unclaimed paychecks. I just thought there was an interesting story behind those paychecks that might enlightened my curiosities.

While at our family’s dinner, I intentionally opened the conversations first regarding her past experiences on her work and about her fellow office mates. Out of my inquisitiveness, I asked her how much salary should had they get during the early 90’s. She said that, at that time, they were receiving salaries ranging from 9,000 to 18, 000, all depending on their respective ranks. Should have received it every 15 and 30-day, she explained… I told my mom that I had in me the unclaimed paychecks of her co-workers from her bag she gave. “They’re incredibly worth unreasonable”, I said… “Nothing new…” she responded.

I ask her how a government employee could receive such an amount especially a 10-peso paycheck… “It was because of their big loans they had”. “In every payroll, their debts automatically keep on eating up their salaries.” “Practically, they weren’t receiving any… they’re working only just to get by their dues. And, it’s being like that for two to three years.” She explicated.  “They really have to sacrifice until they’re completely paid-off”, Mom added.

Then, I ask her of why on earth they had not claimed it knowing that it’s still worth a penny and it can still be en-cashed it in banks regardless of the amount? She enlightens me that it was pity because they were embarrassed if they’re going to claim them. They could be bullied or anything that could stomp their pride… She added that others would just tend to forget that they have salaries. It seems they don’t bother themselves receiving such unreasonable amounts. Few would just bravely say that “it’s yours madam, keep it as a souvenir …”


Image 2: Unclaimed paychecks indicating small amounts

Though funny to hear but deeply it’s disappointing, to begin with. Painful but they have pride. I’m sure they’d never showed up what they truly felt about the difficult situations they were into.

Furthermore, mom remembered that the smallest salary ever of her co-worker whom had huge and multiple loans was amounted 4.00php. If you really think about it, such a shame, pity and ridiculous it seem! I must say that the “blank cheques itself was way more expensive than his salary.” To say, my mother knew this because she once worked as an assistant finance officer; responsible for recording and releasing the employees’ salaries.

My mom shared that, sometimes out of pity on them, she furtively handover a 50- pesos (Php) to those few personnel receiving twenty pesos and below. Although they have pride but mom still wanted to reach out the money through their hand. She wants to make sure that they can go home to their families (at least it’s for a one- kilogram of rice and or a “jeepney” or tricycle ride fare…). It’s the least she could do. What they had received was just a sum that would not even sustain a single meal for the whole family.

My mother enlighten me that even though these people work so hard to support their needs, because of the little income, they really need to loan and or re-loan. It is in order for them to fulfill their daily financial obligation and immediate necessities of their family. Foods, school contributions, tuition fees, insurance, medical emergencies, electric bills, and other family’s requests were few of their worries. Hence, in order not to compromise their needs, they again borrow money to private lending individuals with whooping interests. It leaves them no choice. For family’s sake, they ate and swallowed their pride. It’s like biting an instant beef stake serve in a silver platter today and pay the high price later tomorrow. This cycle continuously goes on and forth. Surely they got stuck in a vacuum of debts.

Back at my room — while looking at this 10.29 Php paycheck, the story and words of my mom kept on resonating me. Remembering what I did at the time I saw the paychecks and laugh so hard at it, I thought I was a bit rude. But this time, I felt a sting inside of me. As I reflect and asked: If I am to put myself in the situation of that employee, what would I feel if one day my salary is not worth receiving because it can’t even buy a kilogram of rice for my family?  What if one day, the only thing I can do when a 15-day or 30-day salary comes is to ask for the paper to sign, took a package and just fold the check within my hand, insert it in my pocket, leaved the office without a word. Then, come back tomorrow and work again for another 8 long hours in a day of week. After that, waiting for my 15th day salary and do the same…? What pain could that be?

At that very moment, my thoughts emptied. I felt gloomy and sad. Like a hard pang of pain inside of me. Then I just remembered my loving mother whom single-handedly took all of the responsibilities for us, after my papa died.

Looking back from the previous years, I had been asking them to shed a lot of money. To some extent I need it and then partly because I deserved it.  I told myself that I can spend that money in a way I want it because it already belongs to me… For I know, I’m not really that cautious of what I spent the money for because the “happy-go-lucky guy” still with in me. And, I knew that I was spending a little more than what I really needed.

Just imagining “that” man working so hard and yet received nothing is a picture of a depressed reality. For sure, it’s a struggling life. Never thinking of the possibility that I might be in the same…

At one point maybe I become so selfish – that I wasted so many just for my crazy things and stuffs; that at some point I tried to be the person I want to fit in to a world I know I don’t belong to; that I tried to live a way of life that I was struggling to keep-up on.

To think, I am at fault. I am to blame. It was me who chose to ask for too much just because I really thought that I deserved it. It was me who ask for more just because they should have to for my own sake and silly things.

Just imagining of that two-figured-amount, I feel affected by it not because I pity for that man who brings nothing for his family. I really feel more affected by it because of the possibility that, at certain point, my parents might have received the same amount just all because of me and of my stupid caprice; because I asked way too much for my own futile and wasted needs. And maybe my mother at one point felt low because after her hardships, she might only receive an amount of which it couldn’t even afford to buy 1-kg of rice for food for all of us.

Thinking all of it, I felt of that man’s pain. But I felt even more for the possibility of my parents if they had gone the same pain. I have never asked my mother but I prefer not to. But I wonder if they experienced such situation in which either or both ‘ma and ‘pa received almost the same amount of a ten-peso. I wonder if I could have done anything to ease their burdens during those times.

More than 10 years already had gone that my father passed away, and ‘ma is already retired from work and she deserves everything to have. But our mother remains the same, tireless of being a wonderful mother to us, her children. She’s strong, brave, principled and empowered. More than ever, She’s “Love.”

I love my family more than anything else. I care more about them more than my grandiose fantasy.

For now, I have no work. But I’ll earn my own money one day and promise to buy something important to keep. Something of that I can share with to anyone who deserves it. Something my family would be proud of because I did great by helping them.

I am not sure if situation like this still exist to some workers and employees, but I am hoping that no one should struggle from their job receiving a payment of as cheaper as the piece of paper “blank-check” itself.

Money should be spent wisely and effectively. Every centavo counts. For now, I’ll be contented of what I have, what we have, and what we can have. My caprice will have its time but I’ll forever keep the lesson of this “10-peso piece of paycheck” within my heart.