The Grey Chronicles


A Year Ago, The First Post

The first post of this blog was published exactly one year ago. Expatriates’ Expertise, was a short—all of eleven sentences, if anyone was counting—simple narrative. Various succeeding posts tackled this same particular topic and, hopefully, improved on the narrative.

Previous posts were about the expatriates at GSPI: their coming to the Philippines, some of whom never even heard of pre-departure expatriates training thus never knew what annoy Filipinos; their management style, how they maximize the company’s intellectual capital; their peculiar brand of engineering with their much-flaunted management initiatives: Six Sigma, TPM or the quest for an ISO certification and its aftermath; the reasons why they earn more compared to locals leading to a research on Relative Hardship in Iligan, the higher education they usually flaunted; their sense of welcoming visitors; and their own little peculiarities, such as their own brand of English, the manly scent some proudly sport, using the loo, how to measure work experience in steel manufacturing, how to celebrate Christmas and evade the 13th-Month Pay question, or how to mark corporate time. At the end of 2008, this blog even highlighted the Best and the Worst events in its corporate life.

With a bunch of books primarily read to enlighten this author on dealing, working or interacting with expatriates, it was hoped that with some insights gained from it, the experience would become bearable. Unfortunately, between 2004 to 2008, with a constant stream of replacement for expatriates who subsequently resigned, the scenario remained the same, more or less.

Earlier this month an expatriate, a Maintenance Planner who came to the Philippines in 2006, after hearing from a tender that he needed a portable greaser to accomplish what the Maintenance Work Order [MWO], which the former issued, specified; he called back to tell me that the tool is available somewhere in the plant and requested the same tender to get it. This particular tool is an essential part of the daily maintenance activities of any operating production line. The company, however, could ill-afford to buy new set of tools for various maintenance purposes, thus borrowing from whichever department, or for that matter division, had been resorted to. The particular tool, moreover, was found to be defective and unusable. Later, he called back and announced that another one was available at another division, but unfortunately the production line already started to its production run, thus making it unsafe to do the regreasing. Being a Maintenance Planner myself, whenever an MWO required tools and spares, these were appropriately secured and procured prior to the actual execution of the specified maintenance activities. The former Maintenance Planning Department Head would likely cause a scene if ever a MWO was scheduled without the necessary tools and spares ready for use. For him, the essence of Maintenance Planning was in the planning itself; the execution just follows the plan. An ill-conceived maintenance plan is the anathema of equipment availability.

Recently, one expatriate, a System Engineer whom I’ve met once in a stand-up meeting, approached me during a production run and directed me to do my job, which I have done years prior to his arrival in 2007, and mockingly looked as if he had the power or the mandate to do the same. The expatriate neither knew the whole production process, much less even how to economically run the production line considering permissible factors. He just wanted to run the line while there were still works-in-process ahead, even to the point of running the line intermittently! He even suggested to the line operator to pump-up the line speed just for the sake of suggesting something, irrespective of the effect of such speeds to the surface quality of the end products given the fact that the installed process rolls were vintage NSC! The next day, he demanded—as if he were the night manager, which he was not—how many were produced during the previous shift. I tossed him the production logbook, hoping he could read! Fortunately, he could but rather was not aware that such logbook existed, else he would not have asked!

The two scenarios above illustrate that what was true years ago are still extant to this day. Neither one of the above mentioned expatriates knew what annoy Filipinos. Their management style is the same as before and thus applied the same brand of engineering.

Lest we forget, the much-flaunted management initiatives: Six Sigma, TPM and the ISO 9001:2000 are all on a stand-still, aggravated by the global economic crises. And they are earning even more than the locals irrespective of relative hardship, even in times of crises. The superior look on their faces marked the higher education they usually flaunted are still flaunted. The visitors have long gone, thus the forest have encroached most of the plant site.

Their own little peculiarities, such as their own brand of English is still much the same although some expatriates learned some words in the dialect. The manly scent some proudly sport still lingers in the air once and awhile, or had the locals became immune to that after all these years? At least, they learned to use the loo properly and discarded the idea of measuring work experience by metric tons. Christmas was six months ago and the locals laughed their pain. Fifty-percent of the 13th-Month Pay was given after 155 days, although for the supervisors and up it remains overdue. Its corporate day still begins at six A.M. (0600H).

A number of this blog’s readers commented that some of the posts were tinged with racism, one reader even called, albeit apologetically, this writer a racist. Others generalized and called Filipinos stupid, or fools for working with Pramod. Probably, this is what one gets when one blogs truthfully—not gospel truth in biblical sense—but more of personal truths. All the posts about GSPI in this blog’s are based on factual experience. These include conversations with those who are still working for the company, especially those who are free to talk; even some who have recently resigned cognizant of the fact that they might have had some axe to grind or gripes to gnaw. Yet, if most of these witnesses corroborated the facts of the stories they told this writer, which have been transformed into posts, then there is but a small chance that the facts, the stories or the experiences are untrue or racially-biased. That’s the substance of research and personal interviews. Although this writer endeavours to be objective, but with present circumstances—being in the midst of all these events and interactions—the question of subjectivity of objectivity really comes to mind. Any omission from the narrative or misinterpretation of the story would necessarily be neither the fault of those people interviewed, nor the whole of the Filipino race. This writer, and he alone, bears sole responsibility for such omissions or misinterpretation.

In spite of these diverging views, readers continue to visit the blog, post their comments or email this writer. From a small beginning, for the past six months according to GeoVisite, an average day generates 30-40 unique visitors. That’s good enough and this writer never thought it would even reach more than that. At least, within the sphere of influence that this writer exists, this blog is a recurring topic at water-coolers or a word-of-mouth within the so-called Grey community. All the more, a challenge for this writer to keep the post interesting, but still following the same set of self-imposed rules. Here’s to another fruitful years of blogs ahead. Thank you very much, readers! I owe each one of you another post! Keep reading!


Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: 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 License.


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