My mother used to work for the Department of Trade and Industry's Garments and Textile Export Board. She was there for more than two decades.
When I was young, I loved to dial her office number after watching the afternoon soap opera "Yagit," When the operator or guard would answer the phone, I'd immediately say "Board Sec" and my call will be transferred to her section.
I would then excitedly tell her the show's highlights as well as all the tragedy which befell Josie - the young thin, dark-skinned girl who is one of the show's protagonist along with her obese - was it brother? - Tom-Tom.
My mother would listen intently to my story whilst saying "ooh" and "aah" as she makes sure she indulges my interest while feigning hers. She would even repeat what I said in playful surprise, "Kinidnap si Josie!?"
to which her officemates would then gather around her and - with great curiosity and concern - ask who was it that got kidnapped. They all heave a sigh of relief when they discover we were only talking about a soap opera.
One time, I got sick and had a very high fever.
It was a weekday and I remember her going home early to check on me.
After she took my temperature and rubbed every nook and cranny of my body with a cold towel, she proceeded to vent and describe how she argued and fought with her "boss."
'She didn't want me to go home early!' my mother angrily said.
'Even after I told her you're sick!' my mother fumed.
'She wanted everyone to stay and do overtime!' my mother gnashed her teeth.
'I told her I can't!' my mother continued.
Mama said she was so angry at her boss' lack of empathy that in the middle of their conversational argument, my mother gallantly walked out. She said she could see from the corner of her eye how her "boss" coldly but incredulously stared at her as she walked out the door.
When she was about to "punch out" - they used time cards back then - she discovered all the time cards were gone. The guard said the "boss" took all of it so that anyone who wants to go home had to pass by - and ask - the "boss" first.
I imagine my mother said in her head, "Fuck it" and left the office to be able to tend to me.
The next day, she said all the time cards were back where they should be.
At that time, I always heard my mother say "GMA" this, "GMA" that.
She never fails to use it in a sentence such as,
"GMA danced Lambada! in our Christmas Party!"
"We were screaming at GMA while she was dancing, we called her `short'"
"GMA shouted and cussed while she slammed the door to her office when she discovered her husband was having an affair."
"One of our officemate got the shock of his life when he innocently walked past GMA and she inadvertently asked him to get the average figures for exporter A,B,C,D. Our officemate panicked and absent-mindedly blurted out `Ma`m, add-add and then divide-divide?" To which GMA annoyingly replied, "What are you saying?!"
Reportedly, GMA disliked inefficiency.
Amazingly, she seems to also not carry grudges.
Her favorite curse word is "Punyeta."
She was also so hands-on that she'd give a surprise visit/inspection to a specific department and actually do the job of the clerk so she'd see for herself how export applications were processed as well as how quick it is done - and everyone hated her for it.
On GMA's first day at work, the whole of GTEB held a strike against her which was lead by then law-student-at-night and GTEB employee-by-day (now Atty.) J. Andres. Years later, GMA would be one of the Ninangs in his wedding.
Their office also held weekend Planning Sessions, sort of like a team-building exercise so everyone knew how to work with each other harmoniously.
In one group activity my mother was partnered with GMA.
I imagine my mother said in her head, "Fuck it" but went along for the ride.
During their "activity," my mother said GMA pointedly asked: `Why don't people like me?'
My mother gave an honest answer and described exactly how she would see GMA walk in and walk out of the office without a mere "Hi" "Hello" or even a nod of acknowledgment to anyone.
My mother allegedly suggested: "You could say a curt greeting or at least fake one."
GMA then allegedly responded back, "ISN'T THAT A WASTE OF TIME?"
When GMA went to work the next day, my mother said GMA greeted everyone she passed by until she reached her office. My mother said it was feigned earnestness but the effort was there.
When GMA left GTEB to work somewhere else, her desk was cleaned by the staff. To everyone's surprise, they saw all her pay envelopes (monthly salaries back then were handed out in small brown pay envelopes not thru ATMs) in her drawer - unopened, untouched with the money still intact.
When my grandfather - my mother's Tatay - got sick, Mama wrote GMA a letter.
Then President GMA responded back with another letter but with a recommendation from her addressed to the PCSO which my mother attached to my grandfather's application for financial assistance.
Though PCSO released the money, it did so months after our grandfather died.
When my mother - who is now based in the US - went home to the PH this month to attend her highschool reunion, she saw
a former classmate who is now one of GMA's doctors. Mama's classmate told her how GMA really is sick and that her favorite curse word is still "Punyeta."