45 Days With Total Strangers — It Wasn’t So Bad

On the morning of January 20, I was crying. At 3pm that day, I would have to check in at the DILG 8 Training Center and undergo a 45-day General Orientation Course for Local Government Operations Officers II. I was scared that I wouldn’t make friends or talk to anybody at all and I’d just end up isolating myself. I was so scared that I just wanted to go back to Cebu, back to my comfort zone. At that point, I had no idea what I was jumping into. I just knew that if I did make the leap, there was no turning back.

And I did leap like a freaking gazelle.

Our first few days at the training center were an adjustment period, I think. I definitely suffered through some type of withdrawal from not doing the stuff that I normally do. I realized that it was shallow of me, missing my bedroom and my books and my TV shows while my co-trainees were missing their families.

I guess it was a good thing that Module 1 was about group dynamics. Basically, we were forced to get to know one another on a more intimate level, allowing us to establish a new and tenuous friendship in as early as 2 days. By the time we had our Endurance Walk on January 24, we were already somehow comfortable with one another; we had started teasing and bullying each other. Me? I still felt out of place. I hadn’t appreciated yet why I was there. And of course, I couldn’t speak Waray yet. I was speaking in TagLish conyo that even I felt disgusted I was speaking like that.

Module 2 felt like a doozy. We were introduced to the flagship programs of the DILG. At that point, my brain was starting to hemorrhage. Fresh from the private sector, I had ZERO clue about the workings of the government that it felt I was being bombarded with all these frameworks and programs and sectoral outcomes that I was basically feeling lightheaded from all of it. I think I was starting to make friends at that time, even showing the real goofy side of me. All of my friends know how supladita I can be, but truly kalog and crazy at the same time. Slowly, I was starting to unravel at the training centre and I found that it wasn’t so bad; showing my true self.

By Module 3, I was truly hemorrhaging. I couldn’t even understand what was happening to me, mentally and emotionally. I had to exert 100% of my effort just to be able to keep up with our sessions. I was so lost among all the provisions and chapters and titles of the Local Government Code. But being lost, it was there I found an appreciation for my future work. It was there I realized how challenging it would be for us to be agents of change in the LGU. This appreciation started in Module 2 and I guess it only peaked higher with Module 3. It was there I truly felt like I was doing the right thing. Back in the private sector, I was earning double (sometimes triple) what I would earn working for the DILG. But with the government, at the end of the day, my day’s worth of work would count for something. I would have made a difference, somehow, and that meant more to me than a fancy job at a tall high rise building.

Modules 4 and 5 were, perhaps, the most challenging to our team. Like I said, the friendship we had established was still tenuous and at its infancy. Our dynamics were put to the test with provocative discussions and workshops, inciting arguments that ended in some sort of tension between team members. But we learned in Module 1 that conflict in any group situation should not be discouraged but encouraged because it promotes development and learning among team members. Is that what happened?

I think all of us had to go through some form of self-discovery during the training. I already knew how to pace myself in group situations. I tend to be a huge control freak and have a dominant personality, but I’ve learned how to let others have their turn. As a result, I had to tolerate varying levels of bickering within 3 inches of my ears and I had to learn to be patient. It often lead to an out-of-body experience where I watched myself endure those kinds of situations and I mentally applauded myself for not losing my temper. If you knew me, you’d know that that was an accomplishment. As for the others, I can’t speak for what kind of breakthrough they had at the training but I’m so proud of all of us, because none of us reached our boiling points. We tolerated each other and accepted that we all come from different backgrounds and cultures, so naturally we’d react differently in group situations.

Module 6 was most memorable because we had to survive Public Speaking. Coming from the University of San Carlos and a product of the Department of Linguistics and Literature, I expected that I’d ace that module because we literally had public speaking for breakfast back in our college days. And I’m a licensed teacher, for crying out loud. I had such high expectations of myself that I ended up failing practicum. My ratings weren’t so bad, but I could’ve done so much better. I really disappointed myself on that one. Our Public Speech and Extemporraneous wasn’t so bad though, especially the latter. Was it a stroke of fate or just coincidence that I picked “Do beauty pageants demean women?” for my topic? Module 7, the last one, took only a day and a half and everything felt in a rush at that point. We were already planning our graduation and having dress rehearsals and compiling photos from Day 1— I was having a hard time concentrating on our sessions.

And finally it was graduation day. I’d love to say that I was jumping for joy but I wasn’t. I belatedly realized that us 13 would soon be scattered all over Region VIII, that we would soon step out as the newest LGOOs II, and that that would be the last time us 13 would be living together. Is that weird? The biggest surprise from this training was that I gained 12 new friends whom I will truly miss. When I was checking out on Sunday morning, March 6, I was ugly crying and hugging everybody. Day 1, I was crying because I was scared I wouldn’t make friends. Day 46, I was crying for a totally different reason— I will miss 12 people who taught me so much, who I danced and jogged with everyday for several weeks, who I shared laughs and tears with, who I spent sleepless nights with.

Yeah, 45 days with total strangers wasn’t so bad.

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3 thoughts on “45 Days With Total Strangers — It Wasn’t So Bad

  1. Good stuff.

    It’s nice that you already have the appreciation of what we do. And here I am smiling while I browse through a couple of your blogs realizing that the only thing I appreciated in my first two months in the service was being able to bike to work. 😀

    Cheers to realizations and making new friends, I hope you don’t miss waking up before 0430 that much.. 🙂

    1. Hi Sir Charlie,

      I actually still wake up at 4:30am and go jogging, tho I have to jog alone so it makes me miss Buenas Trece more *sad face. I haven’t had a chance to go to work as an LGOO yet though so I’ll save those realizations for later hehe. Sir you’re making me wanna try biking, tho I’m not sure I have the stamina for it hehe.

      1. Really?! ‘Cause waking up that early, every single day, would have been the toughest challenge for me if I had gone through the course..hehehe But I guess not for you..

        I wish you guys luck in your assignment in the field. You go make a difference.

        As for biking, if you really want to try, do it! 🙂 Don’t worry about not having the endurance to do it or about anything for that matter. As you did before the course, don’t dwell on your reservations and dive into doing the things you want to do (while you can, YOLO!). 😉

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