"We're soaring, flying," I croaked. I can’t believe I was actually doing this, much less where I was doing this.
It took every ounce of courage in my body to sing those lines from the movie High School Musical in Malacañang, in front of my co-interns and bosses in the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) last summer. If first impressions last, this wasn’t exactly the impression I wanted to make on my first day.
As the saying goes, however, “fortune favors the brave” and this act of brazen foolishness turned out to be the beginning of quite a fruitful internship.
How did I get there, you may ask? No, PMS does not promote impromptu videoke sessions. In fact, they are famous for promoting three principles that may be the exact opposite – Excellence, Professionalism and Passion for Anonymity. Two of which they managed to instill in me.
PMS is the primary government agency mandated to provide technical assistance and support to the sitting President.
I was one of the lucky few who were accepted as interns. This was our first day and, like most first day activities, the organizers had prepared icebreaker activities to help the interns get to know each other.
Our team, which consisted of students from the University of the Philippines - National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG), lost in a nail biter. The host told us that the losing group would have to do a consequence – a song number.
The entire team was supposed to sing together but, little did I know, I was volunteered to go solo. I had just been elected as chair of the NCPAG student council and my teammates had the bright idea of putting me on the spot. “Dapat yung chairperson ang mag-represent para sa constituents,” they joked. They cheered for me to go for it and, since I hate it when people are too timid about speaking up, I proudly stood up and faced the crowd. “No one likes a killjoy; everyone appreciates guts,” I told myself.
By the way, sintunado is a compliment to describe my voice. When I sing, people ask me, “Lasing ka ba?” (Are you drunk?)
I took a deep breath and I sang the first lines that came to mind. “We’re soaring, flying.” Everyone in the crowd was stunned but eventually their shock turned into laughter and they started to cheer more and more. Towards the end, the crowd went wild.
Excellence and professionalism
It is in Excellence and Professionalism that PMS shines. From upper management down to the regular employees, everyone is extremely thorough with your work. They even notice if your punctuation marks are in bold when they shouldn’t be and when your footnotes are off. I distinctly remember that our immediate supervisor would always say that our work should always be of Presidential quality.
Why? Simply because the reports we made were actually read by the President. If you think about it, we were actually briefing the President, the most powerful man in the country whose policy decisions affect millions of Filipinos.
Our output was used as basis for the President’s speeches, from the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the hundreds of speeches he delivers throughout the country. It is well known around the office that the current president is known as a stickler for data and immediately notices inconsistent facts and figures.
Thinking about that made going through the stacks of documents needed to create a single one-page project profile absolutely worth it. Imagine receiving a folder full of technical reports and summarizing all of it in less than 400 words. It’s nothing close to a school report because you have to look at your output from a policy perspective. You have to decide and distill which information is relevant to the Presidency and discard the rest.
What astounded me was that the men and women in PMS served the presidency, not the personality; the institution and not the occupant. This was their way of serving the country.
Many of them could be making ten times more money in the private sector. Some are Foreign Service Officer Examination passers, post-graduate degree holders, ever lawyers, and most studied in the top universities of the country. Recognizing that the presidency is on the line, they readily go beyond the call of duty to fulfill their tasks. They remain calm and collected even under immense pressure and tight deadlines.
What is truly endearing though is the personal care each one has towards the well-being of one another, even outside the office. They go out for karaoke, lunch, dinner, and drinks – those who work hard also party hard. This office has a strong sense of esprit de corps.
Being surrounded by these people for an entire summer was nothing less than inspiring; but, the sad thing is, hardly anyone knows they exist.
I guess that may be my issue with anonymity. The late Secretary Jesse Robredo was great but people only realized how great he was after he was gone. While he was living, only 0.8% of the population wanted him for the Senate. Now, due to the flood of media coverage which highlighted how effective his leadership was, the name Robredo now topples political dynasties. We need living role models.
We should aspire to inspire with our service. People think so poorly of the government because only the bad apples are always in the news. More often than not, the good are content to fade into the background when they should be at the frontlines. Many of them settle for being good followers when they would make great leaders. Let us be the change makers that we know we can be.
I may not believe in Passion for Anonymity but Professionalism and Excellence? Two out of three isn’t bad. I’m not yet there but this is a good start. – Rappler.com
Raymond Rodis is the Chairperson of the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) Student Government 2013-2014.