I’ve lived in the same city for 11 years and here’s why I’m never leaving anytime soon

Sometimes, moving forward means not moving at all.

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32nd Street corner Rizal Avenue in Bonifacio Global City.
This is 32nd and it is my favorite street in Bonifacio Global City, a beautiful district in Taguig City that has quickly earned its reputation as the most progressive, richest and safest place to live in the Philippines. Some even call it a “posh” district because it is dotted with some of the most expensive bars and restaurants, hotels, condominiums and shopping malls in Asia. But if it’s indeed a posh place, then I wouldn’t have fitted in. But somehow I have. I did. I belong.

One more thing that comes to mind as I drive along BGC streets is that, there are two types of progress: good progress and bad progress.

In December 2006, just barely three days in Manila and fresh from college (in the province of Oriental Mindoro), I got lost on my way to my first day at work at ePLDT (now SPi) and stumbled on this very intersection. There were no stop lights back then, no congestion, very few buildings and lots of “free” parking areas and St. Luke’s was 5 years away in the future. I used to walk that empty piece of land that is now Ecotower and F1 Hotel to and from work every day. Now, a lot of progress have happened here. BGC’s skyline is lined up with modern skyscrapers including the new Ascott and Shangri-La hotels. Mini parks and recreation areas have sprouted perfectly in every corner giving this little metro a sense of green. There is a new museum dedicated to the human mind. Sadly enough, there is traffic build in almost every intersection now and travel time around this tiny city has gotten ridiculously longer from 20 minutes to an hour. Despite the downside, BGC has unarguably metamorphosed itself into a booming business, commercial, leisure and fashion hub. It makes me wonder if, along with BGC, I was able to metamorphose into something too.

One more thing that comes to mind as I drive along BGC streets is that, there are two types of progress: good progress and bad progress. Good progress for instance, are the thousands of jobs in different industries that BGC has obviously created for many citizens of the greater Manila area or that almost-Singapore-feels whenever you stroll around this classy district. Bad progress is when you now have to pay an extra P110 for overnight parking that used to be free, or when a once 20 minute drive now takes about an hour due to redundant stop lights in every nook.

Sometimes, moving forward means not moving at all. Eleven years, three companies. All in BGC and I’m not complaining. I’ve made a lot of friends here. I’ve learned most of the knowledge that I have from working with some of the best and most competitive professionals here. I’ve met “interesting” people here.

Just a few blocks away from St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City is Net Plaza Building where I spent seven years working for JP Morgan Chase & Co. Now I’m working for a different IT/Financial company which recently moved from McKinley Hill to a new office in BGC and yes, I’m still excited about this place. But it took me awhile to realize I have been stuck in the same city for the last eleven years of my life. Did I grow? Did I achieve what I came here for? Did it make sense to stay? Am I happy?

Sometimes, moving forward means not moving at all. Eleven years, three companies. All in BGC and I’m not complaining. I’ve made a lot of friends here. I’ve learned most of the knowledge that I have from working with some of the best and most competitive professionals here. I’ve met “interesting” people here. They know my first name at Starbucks Shell. I am a registered voter here. I know the name of every establishment and what they sell. I know there are at least twelve Seven Elevens and ten Starbucks in BGC. My favorite are the Starbucks at Crescent Park Residences which is located near Burgos Circle and of course, Starbucks Shell near St. Luke’s. Hell, I honestly think I know every corner of this place by heart.

As our country moves forward with the new Duterte administration, I hope that we focus on motivating our investors to build more amazing infrastructures and progressive developments such as BGC. I can’t help but imagine how rich Taguig City is. And I can’t help but wonder what if we make the entire Philippines as clean, secured, disciplined, well-maintained as BGC? Nobody litters or throws their trash on the pavement because the cleanliness will shame people for even thinking about it. What if we feel utterly ashamed to throw a single candy wrapper anywhere in the Philippines? We’ll have a greener, safer country. In BGC, nobody violates traffic rules because the law is strictly and rightfully implemented (and there are cameras and high technology speed detectors for the dishonest ones). We should do it on a national scale. Sometime at six o’clock every night, a tanker moves around BGC to water the plants. We should take care of the environment on a larger scale. Just imagine how great the outcome would be. But real change begins with ourselves, right?

So I’ve been working and living in Bonifacio Global City for eleven years. And I guess the reason I don’t want to work or live anywhere else is because BGC is possibly the only place in the Philippines where I am able to see and feel real fast-paced progress. It is a miniature of what our country should have been a decade ago. Its little charm and beauty represents the charm and beauty of the whole nation. Its hospitality to foreigners who have called this place their home reflects the hospitality of a true Filipino. Bonifacio Global City is everything the entire Philippines should be but for some reason, we couldn’t. Or maybe I am being too hard. Maybe we’re getting there but we need more time. Maybe we’re just slow workers. Maybe we need better implementations of the law. Maybe we need more honest public servants. Maybe more investors need to come together to create wonderful places like this. Maybe the Filipinos need to grow up and have some discipline. Because change starts with each and everyone of us.

On a lighter note, at least our country is moving forward, starting with small steps —like having a place called BGC. Next, we’re having more “posh” places such as the McKinley West (also in Taguig), the Lahug IT Park in Cebu and the new Aseana City in Pasay/Parañaque joining the ranks of posh places like Ayala in Makati and Eastwood in Quezon City. That’s why I love this city. I don’t know when I am ever leaving. Perhaps when the new president starts imposing a new dictatorship government. Perhaps when Mocha Uson becomes a Senator of the Republic. Perhaps when a real compelling event occurs. I don’t know. I’m kind of content. I have a choice but I just love it here.

King Ray, the Ninja

P.S. I’ll post more BGC pictures later.

An Open Letter to Pag-IBIG Fund OIC Acmad Rizaldy Moti

People are counting on your agency’s integrity which also reflects your integrity as a leader. When your agency promises us 3-4 weeks, please deliver the damn paperwork within “3-4 weeks”.

Dear Mr. OIC,

Since your agency seem to have one of the most gross paperwork processes in the entire Philippine government, I figure I should write an open letter to you. You probably wouldn’t get to read this though as you are content sitting very pretty in your airconditioned offices that we the Filipino taxpayers gladly paid for so that you can work and carry out your tasks in a comfortable environment; so that public servants like you can serve the people well.

Anyway, I wanted to follow up the status of the consolidation of my Pag-IBIG contributions from my previous company to my current one. When I visited Pag-IBIG SM Aura branch, your staff at the Membership & Loans counter gave me an acknowledgment receipt which he himself signed. He told me I should go home and call the number listed in the acknowledgment receipt. When I asked him how long it would take for the consolidation he told me it would only take 15 business days. I’ve applied for the consolidation last April 3, 2017.

After 15 days, I started calling the number that your staff had given me however, I was told that the consolidation has not reflected yet. The lady told me to wait for a week. I called again after five business days however, the lady told me there was no record of my consolidation application. She then said she would just take note of my call and start the consolidation process that day. It was April 26th, the fourth week after my initial visit to your SM Aura branch.


I have tried calling the corporate headquarters because there are days when nobody was attending to my calls at the SM Aura branch number (632) 422-3000 ext. 5906/5907. If I am lucky and able to reach the hotline, all I get is your staff acting as if they have not started the process yet and that they are hearing my case for the first time when it was already a month since I applied for the consolidation. And then in the fourth week, they told me the real process takes 3-4 weeks. So I’ve waited and now it has been a month and two weeks and the CSR I spoke with at SM Aura is telling me to wait for another week (without any assurance that they would be able to complete the consolidation process). One lady at the customer service hotline even promised me they will get back to me through SMS messaging but not a single text message came in. Does Pag-IBIG tells their member to just sit back and wait forever because we simply have no choice knowing you are the only people who can help us?

Just in case you don’t know Mr. OIC, the reason why ordinary Filipinos like me are applying for a loan is because we have an urgent need for the money, otherwise we would have avoided the disaster of transacting with your unwelcoming staff who look like a bunch of unhappy workers. (Maybe you should look into that as well.) Clearly, you will not understand my predicament since you probably never needed a salary loan in your life. But let me tell you the real score why I had to resort to an open letter.

I am sick and bed-ridden in a hospital and the salary loan will be used to cover my medical expenses. This is my own money that came from years of hard work, I am not asking for anything more or less than that. You may loathe me because I am creating a fuss over a meager amount but this is precisely why I am applying for a loan. I need the money. This is a no-brainer so I expect you to understand.

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I have been confined at a hospital in Manila and the loan I was hoping to get from Pag-IBIG will be used for my medical expenses and medicines.
Until now, I am not sure if anyone in your agency is processing my consolidation or do you people just sit back and relax on your comfy chairs and air-conditioned offices while ordinary Filipinos beg your agency for their respective loans?

Mr. Moti, if I may ask, how long does it take to transfer personal records from one company to another? I really do not understand why it is taking your agency almost two fricking months to do that. I am a Software Engineer and know for a fact that all Pag-IBIG branches are equipped with computers. Your staff could have resolved the issue over the phone by a few clicks on the mouse if only your agency has more integrated procedures in place. Or let me guess, you being just recently appointed by President Duterte are not aware that there is an ongoing problem in your department? Or maybe you do but you are simply too busy savoring your new position. After all, whoever gets affected by the gross incompetency of your subordinates is surely the least of your concerns.

I am not one to complain knowing how our government agency processes work but the last time I called, the lady over at your SM Aura branch put me on hold and had me waiting by the phone for 40 minutes and then I had no choice but to hang up and call again, which she was again the same person who picked up the phone and told me to wait for another 30 minutes on the line only to hang-up on me. I patiently dialed again and when I was able to reach her, I told her to please just tell me if the consolidation has not been completed yet but do not hang up on me like I didn’t deserve to be treated in a professional manner. She simply said sorry without sounding sincere and told me she was just checking my records.

Seriously sir? This is how your agency treat your fellow Filipinos? We are not asking for money from the government, we are just getting a portion of what we have saved from years of working as benefits of being a Pag-IBIG member. We don’t even need to be a member of your stupid organization but since it is mandated by the government, we are forced to put our money in your hands.

Mr. Moti, I hope you realize how disappointing it is especially when people at your SM Aura Branch make me feel that I didn’t matter, that my request does not matter and they don’t care whether I wait forever and die.

What if I was an influential personality, would you speed up the consolidation process? Would you accommodate me better and see the urgency of my request? It is not even urgent since I have been waiting for one month and two weeks now. This is so sad because clearly, there is a problem in your agency that you as the CEO is failing to see and address.

In 2014, Pag-IBIG Fund initiated a nationwide simultaneous recitation and signing of its so called “Integrity Pledge” by all its employees which is a commitment your agency vowed to renew in a yearly basis. The Integrity Pledge even received a Gold Award from the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP) as one of three outstanding corporate governance initiatives. Pag-IBIG Fund was cited for its integrity practices and good governance, improved insurance coverage for home borrowers, and proper management of its acquired assets. Don’t you think that the ADFIAP should reconsider that award?

Your 2016 Accomplishment Report held last January 27, 2017 carried the theme “36 Years of Improving the Lives of the Filipino Workers.” That doesn’t seem to be consistent with your performance at all. If your agency can ignore a small request such as consolidation of records, I wonder how much requests from Pag-IBIG members are left unattended.

In March of this year, Pag-IBIG Fund recently held its Home Lending Accomplishment Report Forum where a total of 211 developers recited the Integrity Pledge for Pag-IBIG stakeholders. They pledged full support and cooperation to Pag-IBIG’s integrity and good governance campaign, vowing to strengthen trust and confidence in all their transactions with the Fund. This delay in the consolidation process alone do not show good governance at all.

So you should realize by now that people like me are counting on your agency’s integrity which is also your integrity as a leader. When your agency promises us “3-4 weeks,” please deliver the damn paperwork within 3-4 weeks. When you promise you will update a member through SMS, please do so with or without results. Because that is the only commitment we are asking from you. When you break a promise to a Pag-IBIG member, you have broken your pledge of oath to the entire Filipino people! And when you break that pledge, there are families and household being affected.

I wasn’t planning to take this issue on you knowing you are a rookie in your post however, the waiting time in Pag-IBIG consolidation process is so grossly disappointing and impossible to comprehend. And the way your staff treat people is so frustrating. They lie about the real status of the consolidation over the phone saying it’s already being escalated just so they could get rid of us. Sir, the issue is screaming and badly needs attention and I believe you are the right person to resolve it. Please do something about it.

And as much as I wanted to put my trust in some of our government agencies like Pag-IBIG Fund, things like this and incompetent public servants like those who work in your offices are what keep me from doing so.

So this I ask you Mr. Newly Appointed OIC; I hope that you become the hope of every Pag-IBIG member. I hope that you work to clean up your department because the Filipino taxpayers do not deserve this gross disservice we are getting from your maladroit agency.

Sincerely,

King Ray, the Ninja

Update: 5/13/2017 —Two days after posting this article, I got a message from Pag-IBIG Fund’s Official Facebook account that my record of contributions has been consolidated.