The Grey Chronicles


Laughing the Pain

When GSPI declared forced leave for all employees last 03 December 2008, some local employees psyche themselves up by hosting some sort of a closing-out lunch. They harvested some vegetables growing wild amidst the encroaching forest surrounding the plant buildings. They made a vegetable soup from what they gathered. They also picked some young coconuts and brewed some sort of fruit salad. From a rain-water gutter transformed into a fish pond when GSII became GSPI, they caught some tilapias and roasted them over hot charcoal. The lunch was lively.

After lunch, they conducted an impromptu meeting asking those in attendance what they planned in the coming months, especially during the Holidays. Others worried what would become of their children going to college. While some spoke of other alternative livelihood: farming, poultry, piggery, of what have you. Some contemplated on their pending overseas job applications. A newly regularized employee thought aloud on his luck! One, about to retire by January 2009, claimed that it was like an omen of what the future might bring. Yet, thankful that at least he was able to send his five children to college and most were now gainfully employed.

Although the locals broke into smaller groups after the meeting, some were already gathering their personal belongings from their lockers and transferring them to their bags for home. Meanwhile, others took the time to pose for picture, a remembrance of some sort. Some reminisced the time when NSC closed in 1999. One employee compared what was happening now with what happened then. Another one exclaimed that maybe Santa will be on force leave, too!

While the supervisors prepared the force leave schedule for personnel who will comprise the spur-of-the-moment Preservation Team, one expat asked, “This is not a time for celebration; it is a sad time.” He said, “Why are they happy? Are they not aware that by tomorrow the plant will be on shutdown?”

Most local supervisors overhearing that rolled their eyes in disbelief. One of them muttered, “This one may have missed that during their Cross-Cultural seminar before coming here!”

Then the expat came to me and addressed his question to me, and added, “I saw some of your guys boisterously laughing, taking pictures, and almost enjoying the day. Are those people aware that we will be on plant shutdown tomorrow?”

My reply was:

“Filipinos are basically happy people. We often laugh through our pain. There is no crying over spilt milk. You forgot that most of us here have undergone the same situation about nine years ago when NSC closed. Although most of us were sad back then, we turned to faith and prayed: Bahala na ang Diyos!

“As to those guys laughing, should we be shedding tears because the plant is shutting down? We could say that it’s our defense mechanism. It’s a fact of life and in business, we all have heard the boom-and-bust cycle of industries, especially manufacturing. Yet, back in our minds, we also foresee that maybe in the near future, GSPI will be back on its feet again. And all will be well. Thus, the answer is YES, they all know that we’re on plant shutdown by tomorrow.”

“Incidentally, haven’t you undergone a cultural seminar prior to your assignment here? Maybe you should brush-up your understanding on the Filipino mind-set.”

The expat smiled, meekly nodded then silently went back to his desk and surfed the ’net.

Today is the 115th day when GSPI declared a plant shutdown. Although some of its mills were operated from the last week of February to the third week of March; the rank-and-file personnel have rendered at most one day duty for the past three months. Others, mostly electrical and mechanical tenders, were able to render at most ten days per month.

It should be noted that for years, GSPI’s Human Resources Department had this unofficial stand not to issue training and employment certificates to curb employee resignations. Alas, a number circumvented this issue, filed a leave of absence and never came back, even just to file a resignation letter. With freeze-hiring effective January 2006 also in place, the rate of attrition on local employment had risen. Out of the blue and at a time when most companies were on shutdown being on the closing end of the fiscal year, the department issued these certificates last December. That’s just {blip}ing innovative!

Armed with the newly-released training and employment certificates, a number have filed a year-long leave from GSPI, and applied for work in other companies—as far as Kuwait, or as near as Palawan—which were fortunately still hiring even during this economic crises.

Others decided to resign and looked for something better. Yet, some—including me—opted to remain here. Why? Most of us were “young” enough to be managers and “old” enough to be supervisors. Meanwhile, most rank-and-file employees are now at their prime age, which is not a plus factor in job applications. And the new graduates hired two years ago have yet to pile up on years of experience before they become overseas Filipino workers, ultimately.

And yes, we’re still laughing . . . the pain!


This post was originally written last December but was re-scheduled because of some more «interesting» posts. Revision includes additional paragraphs on the aftermath after 115 days.

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.



  1. I found this blog through Google. Great information. Will be back in the future!

    Comment by Living Philippines — 2009.May.1 @ 03:06 | Reply

  2. I noticed that this is not the first time you mention the topic. Why have you chosen it again?

    Comment by Get Your Ex Back — 2009.April.9 @ 19:00 | Reply

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