President, Artgo Travel and Tours, Inc.
OUTDOOR TOURS FOR HABITUAL WORKAHOLICS
What is life? “Life is being able to rest when you’re tired.” A not-so-popular definition, but true in my case.
Rest is as important as work … this I realized after working for more than 23 years, teaching in college. Now I’m home planting camote and enjoying every minute of my retirement which I availed before reaching 60.
Really, what is the ideal proportion of work and rest? Fifty-fifty? Sixty-forty, as in 60% work and 40% rest? Seventy-thirty, as in 70% work and 30% rest? 80%-20%? Many Filipino professionals probably are between the 70-30 and 80-20 category to not go hungry. Working more than resting. Friday is “fly day” and “Thank God it’s Friday!” are common mantras of “organization serfs”.
Those comprising the informal workforce (sidewalk vendors, house helps, on-contract unskilled laborers, etc.), however, probably content themselves with 99%-1% (“jingle lang ang pahinga” say jeepney drivers). The “ok lang kung tamad, di naman pagod” types probably do their own version of “side hustle”.
Back to myself: when I was professionally active, I shuttled between 70-30 and 80-20 but when the latter became too rigorous, I felt somewhat that I wanted the world to stop spinning. You feel that way, too? The “wisdom of the ages” such as Golden Mean and Nothing Too Much by a Greek philosopher is still true today, even more so, “sakto lang” we say.
When I was teaching and also taking up doctoral studies in a university in Manila dubbed as one of the “premier” in the Philippines, (this was during the last 12 years before my retirement) I developed a work ethic called work hard-play harder. But playing harder did not do much to relieve the tension, even if it meant vacation in a mountain resort or in a quiet, pristine beach. Just like for most career professionals, “work hard” entailed waking up early, eating fast, dressing up, addressing students’ concerns, staying cool even when pissed off, meeting deadlines, attending endless meetings (for a few years I handled an administrative position), appearing assertive while addressing VIPs even when feeling inadequate, running helter-skelter but trying to look composed nevertheless… ad infinitum. When inspired, I wanted the morning to come soon; when unmotivated, I wanted no morning at all.
This crazy whirlwind, without my being conscious of it, was transforming me. I thought it was normal, being habitual. Then one day a bombshell dropped on my lap. “You’re very difficult,” a close friend told me frankly. I was too demanding, too hurried, too on-the-go. When people didn’t meet my expectations, I’d easily get upset. This destructive ”pecking order” was transpiring in my relationships! I felt harassed by university officials higher than me, so in turn I’d harass my maid, my sister, my friends. For another colleague, the effect of habitually hurrying was on her posture and bearing: she was always head forward (not chest out, my golly!) and she would walk like a whole army was after her.
A sudden turn: when I was about to work on my doctoral dissertation, I took a 4-month leave (a summer break and the trimester following) so I could focus. I went home to Albay and literally planted camote, as the heckle goes. I did stick some camote cuttings into the soil and in a week or two, new leaves grew! I had camote tops for my fish soup!
I didn’t plant more camotes though, nor did I work on my dissertation, because there were so many other “tasks” for priority action: boating, trekking, ATV riding up the slopes of Mt. Mayon, watching sunrises and sunsets, visiting most of the Bicol Region’s highways and byways.
One day while rummaging among my things for some outdoor gear, something caught my eye that startled me (nauntog!) … my baby! My dissertation begging attention! Reading Skills Pre-test, etc. This happened about 2 weeks before the end of my blessed 4 months. How did time zoom by without warning? I didn’t have the vigilance to keep count. What to do next?
In denial mode, I went to a barangay in Cagraray Island (where Misibis Bay is located now) to relax one day more, my head loaded with questions like “Where did my 4 months go?” “How do I start the dissertation?” The moment led me to remember my experience in Sula Channel, one of those numerous excursions I enjoyed. (I was sitting legs apart “balaka” atop the wooden roof of a passenger boat cruising Sula Channel, and in my most authentic self: wearing shorts and T-shirt, no make-up, hair all awry (mahangin sa labas), talking animatedly in Bicol with the fishermen’s wives who went up the roof with me, the “bokales” kind of Bicol …. It was not fun … It was hilarious! … Sula Channel is a quiet waterway connecting Tabaco Bay and Albay Gulf. It is fringed with lush greenery on both sides dotted with rustic nipa huts. A friend of mine who owns a mainland property in Sula says that when no boats pass, the water “sleeps”… no ripples appear… because it’s very deep. Whenever she stays overnight in her vacation cottage here, she would set candles on coconut husks and float them. These candles in the water look mystical specially on moonlit nights. Sula was where some galleons were built during the Spanish era).
Back to the one-day-more denial mode: A light bulb popped up in my head …”ping! I’ll bring people to Sula Channel, to help them relax!” The idea took my breath away – away from my dream of having a Ph. D. subscript attached to my name. (Now I am hP. D. … hindi Pa Doctor, hindi na nga). Right then and there I thought to myself, “I’ll make tour operations my avocation so that people will be able to balance work and rest.” In a span of more than 10 years, my avocation/mission snowballed: first as a single proprietorship and now as a corporation accredited by the Department of Tourism.
Alongside my travel and tours business, I teach part time in a seminary in Albay on invitation by one of its professors (He translated the Bible into Bicol direct from Greek and Aramaic).
Officer, Bicol Accredited Tour Guides, Association, Inc.
Member, Multi-Sectoral Governance Coalition (a group of professional and business persons formed by Mayor Noel E. Rosal of Legazpi City to monitor its tourism ventures).
Lay Professor, Mater Salutis College Seminary, Daraga, Albay
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